Is health insurance for college students a good idea?
Often, college students feel they are invincible. However, illness and injuries don’t discriminate. Health insurance for anyone, including college students, is always a good idea. Taking chances on your health and welfare is a very risky thing to do.
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There are a few choices for college student health insurance coverage. Perhaps the best option for you is to remain on your parent’s employer-related group policy – if available. Group policies generally offer coverage that is more comprehensive and are less expensive.
Until recently, most college students were required to provide proof of fulltime enrollment before they were eligible for coverage under a parent’s plan. New legislation is now in place that has eliminated that requirement. According to a 2010 USA Today study, more than two-thirds of college students have coverage under their parent’s employer-based plan.
What if I’m not eligible for my parents’ plan?
If you are not eligible for health insurance coverage under a parent’s group plan, check with your school to see if they offer student health insurance coverage. According to the Government Accountability Office, in 2008, more than half of all colleges and universities offered some sort of student plans.
Many school-provided health insurance options are affordable and offer good basic coverage. School-based plans are typically focused on services necessary to stop the spread of illness among the student population. Therefore, these plans are great for routine immunizations, treatments for colds and flu, etc., but they stop short on providing extensive coverage for major illnesses and accident-related costs. The GAO reports that the annual cost for school plans can range from $30 to $2,400 with an average cost of around $850.
Another choice for you, the college student, is to seek out a good individual health insurance plan. You can find reputable companies that offer plans suitable for college students. Looking online is a great way to start.
One advantage of individual health insurance plans is that the premium for a young, healthy adult can be quite affordable. Another plus is that these plans will offer you more choices of providers than your school-based plan. Plan to pay higher deductible and out-of-pocket costs, though. Another big negative for students seeking individual health insurance coverage is that they may not be able to get coverage if there is a pre-existing condition.
Some college students may actually be eligible for their own coverage under an employer-based group health plan. If you work full-time at a company that offers health insurance coverage, you should consider electing this coverage – particularly if you are not eligible under your parent’s plan. Coverage through your employer will offer better benefits and coverage than your school plan and will cost less and be easier to obtain than an individual plan.
Are there any downsides to having health insurance coverage under my parent’s employer-related plan?
If you are eligible for coverage under a parent’s plan, then you are one of the lucky ones. You will more than likely be eligible for better coverage at a much lower out-of-pocket cost.
However, you should review the plan’s policy on in-network and out-of-network coverage and charges. For instance, if you go to a school that is perhaps in another state, you may have access to medical providers in the plan network. This could mean additional costs and even denial of some charges. Have your parents check into in-network and out-of-network expenses as they apply to you.
If I am college-age but considered independent, are there any special provisions for me?
If you are considered independent and you meet certain age and income eligibility requirements, you may qualify for Medicaid coverage. This could even be the case if you are still considered a dependent. Check with your individual state agency for the requirements.
Are there any options for me if I don’t qualify for any of the options mentioned for health insurance coverage?
Some states have what is called a Health Insurance Pool. If you are can’t qualify for coverage under any of the conventional means, you may be eligible to enroll in a plan under your state’s pool. Coverage offered by these plans is usually very similar to that of a group health insurance plan. Be advised, however, there are still certain requirements you must meet. Also, be prepared to pay a good bit more in premium.
Health insurance coverage is important. Don’t kid yourself: sure, you may have always been healthy in the past; this doesn’t guarantee what your future holds, however. Not having coverage can result in large health care bills that can land you in the middle of financial ruin. Having insurance provides coverage for these expenses as well as peace of mind.
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