There are a lot of factors to consider as you’re going off to college for the first time. You might be worried about what your dorm will look like or whether or not you’ll like your roommate, but have you thought about researching health insurance for college students?
It may not be the first thing you think of, but health insurance is very important to have as a college student. Read on for an overview of some of your health insurance options as a college student and tips on how to choose college health insurance coverage that’s right for you.
College Student Healthcare Options
You have a few options to consider to make sure you’re covered. Depending on your school, your health needs, and your parents’ insurance coverage, you can make a decision that makes sense for you and your family.
Coverage Under Your Parent’s or Guardian’s Insurance Plan
Many employer-sponsored insurance plans cover dependents and allow plan holders to cover their children until the age of 26. This means that anyone under the age of 26 can be covered under a parent’s health insurance plan if that plan allows for dependent coverage. The Affordable Care Act raised this age of eligibility to 26 to make healthcare coverage more accessible to America’s young people.
Your parents or guardians can add you to their healthcare plan during a special enrollment period in their health plan. Their monthly premium, or the amount they pay for their coverage per month, will likely increase with the addition, so keep this in mind. Depending on their health insurance coverage, this may or may not be an affordable option.
Student Health Plans
Most colleges and universities, especially traditional four-year institutions, offer student health plans. A student plan typically provides students with health coverage that the school offers. This means students can receive healthcare at the school’s student health center and other centers affiliated with the school plan, often including urgent care centers.
Urgent care centers are medical practices where you seek care for something that needs immediate attention but that doesn’t warrant a visit to the hospital. They are a great option for receiving quality, on-demand care.
Health Insurance Marketplace
Even if your school offers student health plans, you can still apply for coverage through the health insurance marketplace. Under some of these marketplace plans, you may qualify to get financial help to pay for your coverage. Marketplace plans are often provided in partnership through an insurance company that also offers employer-sponsored health plans.
Applying for coverage through the healthcare marketplace will also help you discover if you qualify for Medicaid. Medicaid is a state-sponsored program run by the Department of Health and Human Services that helps low-income people in the United States access and pay for the cost of healthcare. Medicaid eligibility requirements are different in every state.
Catastrophic Health Plan
If you are under the age of 30, you can buy a catastrophic health plan independently. Catastrophic Health Plans are plans with very low monthly premiums but very high out-of-pocket deductibles.
A deductible is an amount that you must pay out of pocket before the insurance company will begin to cover the expenses of your medical care. In the case of a catastrophic plan, if you get seriously sick or injured and have high medical bills, you will have to pay a high deductible before your insurance will cover the rest of your expenses.
This is an option for students who are not in the position to pay a higher monthly premium through their parents or a healthcare marketplace program. That said, it is an option that comes with its own costs and benefits.
If you are a part-time college student but work a job that offers health insurance, this may be your best option. Part-time students are not often eligible for student health plans because they are not full-time students and are often full-time employees elsewhere.
How to Choose a College Student Health Insurance Plan
As a college student, you should carefully research insurance options to determine which best fits your coverage needs and falls within your budget.
When comparing your healthcare plan options, consider all factors and decide which factor you need to prioritize.
Cost: Premium vs Deductible
Considering what amount you are willing to pay is an important step in selecting your health insurance plan as a college student. If you aren’t able to pay a consistent monthly premium, a low premium and high deductible plan may be your best bet. That said, it is often worth paying a higher premium plan that won’t have such a high out-of-pocket deductible cost if you unexpectedly need high-cost medical care.
Depth and Breadth of Coverage
Research the depth and breadth of each plan’s coverage. Some plans offer extensive coverage within one hospital or one small network of providers. Others offer basic and primary coverage with a large number of different providers but don’t offer the same degree of coverage for specialty care or hospital services.
Ideally, you will find a plan that is a good combination and balance of both depth and breadth. Depth will make sure that you can seek care for all kinds of medical issues, including specialty care, while breadth will make sure that you have enough choice when it comes to choosing your provider.
Typical plan benefits include prescription and pharmacy benefits, vaccine coverage, and free preventative care including annual physicals. It’s a good idea to choose a plan with solid plan benefits so that you don’t have to worry about these factors separately. This is especially true when it comes to pharmacy benefits because of the potentially high cost of medication.
In the end, you’ll want to choose a health insurance option that makes sense for your health and your wallet.
Cheapest Health Insurance for College Students That Won’t Break the Bank
|Aetna||Relatively low premiums||High monthly deductibles|
|Cigna||Comprehensive coverage options||Subsidies might not be available for dependents|
|Everest||Multiple coverage period maximums available||Pre-existing conditions are not covered|
|IMG||Multiple add-ons and riders available||Waiting periods for pre-existing conditions may apply|
|Blue Cross Blue Shield||Range of extra benefits||Some plans don’t include a prescription drug benefit|
|Pivot||24/7 telehealth visits||Not available in every state|
|Tokio Marine HCC||Get a quote and buy online||Variable waiting period|
|Humana||Large coverage||No short-term plans|
What Is the Cheapest Health Insurance For College Students?
These health insurance policies make up some of the best health insurance for college students on a tight budget. It offers catastrophic coverage that can be obtained through a federal health insurance marketplace. Aetna stands out because of its low monthly premium. The insurance costs are affordable even for low-income students who meet the income requirements.
Cigna is an excellent option for students with pre-existing health conditions. Such students who need medical care regularly can easily qualify for free preventative care, significant discounts, and low-cost virtual care. Cigna allows students with a pre-existing condition to choose the best student health plan for their situation and get savings without astronomical out-of-pocket costs.
Everest is a great option for students because it offers short-term health insurance plans. These plans have customizable options that make them the best for students. Students are allowed to tweak their deductibles and copays or adjust premiums to fit their budgets. Even though it doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions, students can choose their coverage maximum.
This student insurance also covers international students. It can be personalized to meet the needs of the students as well. Its plans cover essential health benefits such as medications and prescription drug coverage in the United States. It is also a good option for American students in other countries. Emergency care, such as emergency room visits, often comes unexpectedly, and having a short-term coverage plan like the ones IMG offers is the kind of essential coverage that domestic and international students need.
Blue Cross Blue Shield
This insurance offers plans to students who want health coverage across the country as well as internationally. It offers low-cost premiums and a wide range of coverage options. Students can customize plans with vision coverage and dental insurance. Blue Cross Blue Shield also offers coverage options such as catastrophic and comprehensive platinum, depending on location.
This insurance company is another excellent short-term insurance plan for a college student. It offers flexible plans to allow students to personalize their health insurance policy. It is not tied to any particular provider network and offers telehealth visits. Pivot also has discount programs to help students save even more money.
"Career Karma entered my life when I needed it most and quickly helped me match with a bootcamp. Two months after graduating, I found my dream job that aligned with my values and goals in life!"
Venus, Software Engineer at Rockbot
Tokio Marine HCC
This insurance company offers an affordable option for short-term health insurance for students who are studying abroad. As an international student, it’s possible that your healthcare coverage may not cover you outside the US. With this student health insurance plan, you’ll have access to doctors and emergency services wherever you are without your medical bills skyrocketing.
Humana is another low-cost health insurance policy option for students. It offers many student plans to give students more options at a much lower average cost. Aside from traditional health insurance coverage levels, it also offers full-service health care coverage including vision care and dental services.
How Much Does Health Insurance for College Students Cost?
The cheapest health insurance for college students costs around $1,500 per year, but it can range up to $2,500. These figures will vary depending on the school. Some of the most affordable health insurance for college students also includes mental health coverage. You’ll have to check with each insurance provider to see if there is an additional cost for mental health care coverage.
Can You Get Health Insurance for College for Free?
Health insurance is not free, but the most affordable rate for health insurance for a full-time student in college is a low-cost or nearly free option from Medicaid. This is only possible if you are not enrolled in the dependent coverage option on your parent’s health care plan and do not live with your parents.
Top Tips to Save Money on Your Health Insurance as a College Student
- Stay on your parents’ or guardians’ plan. Most students save money by remaining on their parents’ plan. This is allowed until the student’s 26th birthday.
- Use university health plans. This traditional insurance type of plan is provided by colleges and comes in handy for students who don’t have their own providers. These school-sponsored insurance offerings are also much cheaper than provider networks.
- Use Medicaid. Medicaid is quite an affordable program for low-income students who aren’t listed as a dependent on any tax return.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.