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.