College burnout: a pre-existing condition

College students stand to feel the effects of changes to medical coverage under Congress’ proposed American Health Care Act (AHCA) during their time in college.

Namely, threats to students’ mental and physical well-being on and off campus could now be a determining factor in the price and quality of healthcare offered.

As part of the AHCA, depression and symptoms often resulting from sexual assault are now considered pre-existing conditions. Though the Act still guarantees coverage to anyone, states may opt for a waiver of the “essential health benefits” mandate, which assures insurance to individuals who might need more expensive coverage due to their pre-existing conditions. Effectively, this allows states to not provide necessary treatment coverage within the plans offered (such as chemotherapy for an individual/applicant with cancer).

It could be a big deal for college students.

Nicole Gilbertson, an MHCC faculty counselor for 10 years, said “In general, anxiety and depression are the two main reasons people indicate they’re coming into counseling.” On average, about 44 percent of college students actually experience symptoms of depression, according to

“Labeling depression as a pre-existing condition offers a whole other host of issue,” Gilbertson said. “Are people going to be truthful about it? I don’t know if people are going to come forward to get help.” She said a major hurdle within the mental health field is diagnosing individuals who exhibit symptoms of depression – and that’s pretty important on campus, as 75 percent of students who exhibit symptoms go undiagnosed for the duration of their college stay, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

Similar challenges on sexual assault reporting face law enforcement officials. Statistically speaking, 1 in 5 college women will be raped during their college days, with a staggering 90 percent of incidents going unreported, the NSVRC reports. At MHCC, three sexual assaults were reported in 2014, and then none since, sharply contrasting the national trends.

“Often (assault victims) don’t wish to talk about it. I takes a lot to come forward.,” said Gale Blessing, MHCC director of human resources, on the Mt. Hood records. It should also be noted that MHCC has no dorm rooms and a relatively small campus, both of which would help  minimalize on-campus assaults.

Given these metrics, the typical college student raises the risk of being included in these state healthcare insurance waivers, especially given that the average age of graduation is 23-25 – just prior to many students’ becoming ineligible for parental insurance coverage.

However, there are two ways to avoid being denied adequate coverage or seeing an increase in premiums when venturing into your own medical insurance. First, you can seek coverage through an employer. The waiver can only be applied for applicants of the individual insurance market. Medicaid and other government-backed health programs are protected, also.

Secondly, students should avoid being without insurance for more than 63 days. This time frame makes you eligible for the waiver; within this nine-week window, you are protected.

The road to discouraging help for assault victims and students experiencing depression is long and complicated in many states. Any given state has to be able to provide reasonable evidence to earn the right to waive an application of the “essential health benefit” mandate.

So long as students are careful to continue coverage or obtain new coverage from employers or programs, they can expect to retain  comparable coverage to what they currently have. If not, students who are victim to the likely threats

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