Publication Title

Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics

Document Type



Between 2010 and 2016, the percentage of uninsured higher education students dropped by more than half. All the Affordable Care Act’s key access provisions contributed, but the most important factor appears to be the Medicaid expansion. This article is the first to highlight this phenomenon and ground it in data. It explores the reasons for this dramatic expansion of coverage, links it to theoretical frameworks, and considers its implications for the future of health reform.

Drawing on Medicaid universality scholarship, I discuss potential consequences of including the educationally privileged in this historically stigmatized program. Extending this scholarship, I argue that the student experience and its reverberating effects portend support for emerging proposals to make Medicare a more common option. Woven into both analyses is the role of the Trump-era retrenchment, notably the administration’s promotion of Medicaid “work or community engagement” requirements and of cheap, skimpy plans. Higher education students were an afterthought in the ACA’s debates, and yet the law has profoundly impacted their coverage options. Students are now much more likely to have health insurance, and for it to be comprehensive. Looking to the next decade, the student experience harbingers support for both Medicaid universality and Medicare commonality.



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