Getting ready for college is an exciting time in life. Not only is it a big life change, but there are a lot of decisions to make, including how to continue your health insurance. Some schools may offer college student health insurance, but you also have other options.
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Student Health Insurance Facts
- More than 1 million students have student health insurance coverage.
- 20% of college students have no health insurance.
- More than half of all colleges and universities offer health insurance for college students.
- Health insurance for students now includes prescription plans, higher coverage levels, and free preventive care.
Do College Students Need Health Insurance?
The simple answer is yes, college students need health insurance. Students who are uninsured face tax penalties, but that's not the only reason you should have coverage.
Even very young, healthy people need to be able to get treatment at a reasonable cost in the event of an accident, sports injury, or bout of the flu or mononucleosis.
The average family pays in the neighborhood of $3,000 per year in healthcare costs with a good health plan in place. Without coverage, one serious illness or injury can leave a student facing bills of $10,000 or more.
Unexpected medical bills can add more debt to student loans. The only thing those with a student health insurance plan need to worry about after an illness is making up missed homework.
Is Health Insurance Required for College Students?
Federal law, through the Affordable Care Act, mandates that all adults have health insurance coverage, and this includes health insurance for college students. While there are no criminal charges attached to failing to be insured, there are tax consequences.
Furthermore, some states have made it mandatory for students to have health insurance before entering college, and individual colleges and universities may require medical insurance for students as a matter of policy.
Finding Health Insurance for College Students
For most students and their families, finding student health insurance is not difficult. You just need to sort through your options. Comparison shopping and working with insurance professionals will help make this process go more quickly. Just make sure you're working with an agent who can find the coverage you want.
Independent agents can be particularly effective when you're comparison shopping, because they are free to shop around and review policies offered by a variety of companies that offer health insurance for college students. They can help you review your options so you find competitively priced coverage that's right for you.
College student insurance coverage can be obtained through any of these channels:
Parents' health insurance plan
Most students simply remain on their parents' health insurance plan. The ACA requires insurance companies to allow children to stay on their parents’ health insurance until the age of 26. For many college students, this is a great way to maintain coverage and still get an education, but you need to make sure that the coverage your parents have fits your needs.
Students who travel out of state for college could face higher co-pays and deductibles, as well as a limited availability of in-network care providers.
Check with your parents' insurance company to see if there are any limitations on their medical insurance for a student. As long as you're covered appropriately by their health insurance, this is probably the best option.
College health insurance plan
If staying on your parents’ plan is not an option, be aware that the majority of colleges and universities offer health insurance for their students.
This is an affordable option, but premiums vary by state and school. Yearly premiums can cost anywhere from $30 to $2,400, but if you have the option of choosing between your parents' plan and a college plan, be sure to compare coverage as well as costs.
Currently, the ACA requires that all colleges have a coverage limit of at least $200,000. These plans also also cover preventive care and offer a prescription drug benefit. Good college plans also offer mental health coverage.
It's a good idea to sit down and compare a your family's health plan with the college student health insurance offered by the school. You may save money and have better coverage with the school plan, which is designed for the student and the location.
Individual health insurance plan
If you aren’t eligible for parental coverage and your school doesn’t offer health insurance, it’s still possible to find a student health insurance plan through a national provider. Buying individual insurance can be a tricky process and you have to weigh benefits and cost.
If you are considering a private insurer to get health insurance for college students, it’s best to work with an independent agent. These agents can help you gain more control over your insurance choices by exploring your options through you state's healthcare exchange and by leveraging all available subsidies and discounts.
Be aware, however, that if you are purchasing coverage through the healthcare exchange and you are still considered a dependent by someone else, you won't be eligible for subsidies based on your income.
Options for Non-Traditional Students
Not everyone who goes to school is 18 and a bright-eyed freshman, but health insurance is still important. Regardless of your student profile, many of the options described above still apply. You can also typically find coverage just for you.
- Graduate students: If you are 26 or older and in graduate school, you are not eligible to remain on your parents' health insurance. However, your university may provide graduate student health insurance that is comparable to a traditional plan. You can also search for individual plans through the healthcare exchange or work with certain providers that specialize in graduate student health insurance. An independent insurance agent can help you find the best plan to meet your needs.
- International students: If you are an international student, you can check to see if the college you’re attending offers health insurance for international students, which would be specifically designed for your particular situation. If you can find a different plan that offers comparable coverage, you should have the option to waive the college’s plan. Compare them to make sure that your needs are covered and that you can afford the premiums, as well as the co-pay amounts and deductible.
- Students traveling abroad: If you’re traveling abroad as a student, you need to make sure that you still have health insurance. Traditional plans may not provide coverage if you venture out of a certain region, so finding student travel health insurance may be your only option. If your school is sponsoring a trip, health insurance may be included in the cost, but other individual providers can create a package tailored to your journey. When you plan to travel abroad, consider that you might need emergency medical evacuation coverage and other critical services. Be sure to evaluate emergency services and look for a 24/7 help line when searching for the appropriate health insurance.
Finding Affordable Health Insurance for College Students
Pursuing an education is an excellent decision, but it’s important that you don't overlook having quality health insurance on the way to getting that diploma.
Before you hit the books, make sure that you’re properly insured. Whether you’re a traditional or non-traditional student, there are several options available. You just need to find the right plan for you.
You can find insurance easily when you have the right resources. Independent insurance agents can help you search for coverage that fits your needs and budget.
These agents can explain your various options to you and can help you compare a variety of health insurance plan for college students. They may even be able to help you save money on other insurance policies you carry, such as car or renters insurance. Find an agent near you to learn more.