Should I sign up for a student health insurance program?
Health insurance is of the utmost importance for people of all ages, including students. It protects financial stability as out-of-pocket health insurance costs for an accident or illness can be overwhelming. Having health insurance also promotes better health; it is more accessible through yearly check-ups, wellness programs, and information such as nurse-staffed hotlines.
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Student should sign up for a student health insurance program if it is the best program to meet their needs. It is just one health insurance option available to students.
What health needs do students have?
Students are at a crossroads of health requirements. They still have childhood-type health needs such as immunizations and dental work; but they also have adult-type health needs like birth control and pregnancy. A few areas should be considered necessities for student health.
Like all age groups, students need to have coverage for basic doctor’s visits and associated services, such as immunizations. Overall health is lower in those who cannot get yearly check-ups or doctor’s visits for common illnesses because of the high cost.
On the same hand, students should also have some form of prescription coverage. Some medications have monthly costs of several hundred dollars. While most students generally have few monthly prescription requirements, the coverage is important if the need for a costly prescription arises.
Young women should also have insurance that covers genecology visits. A woman’s reproductive health is reliant upon yearly exams, check-ups, and testing. Yearly exams are necessary for preventative medicine and early detection of reproductive issues.
Similarly, every young woman should have maternity coverage. The health of both mothers and babies are improved by regular pre and post-delivery health care. While women in the 25-29 age bracket had the highest number of births in 2010 according to the U.S. Census, women in the 20-24 age bracket had the second-highest number of births. Whether a woman is planning to have a pregnancy in her early 20s or not, the possibility of a pregnancy must always be planned for.
Additionally, students should try to find coverage for vision, dental and wellness programs. Usually, these benefits are not part of most standard insurance policies, but they can have a high impact on overall health and lowering out-of-pocket costs.
What do student plans include?
Student plans vary widely from what they offer. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), states that many student health plans offer limited benefits and restricted networks coupled with annual payout limits that are too low.
The HHS proposed regulations in February 2011 to the Affordable Health Care Act of 2010 that would define student health plans as individual health insurance coverage. This designation would then require that student health insurance plans adhere to the following rules:
- Insurance providers cannot arbitrarily drop students from coverage.
- Students under the age of 19 cannot be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition.
- Coverage providers cannot impose a lifetime limit on coverage paid for student health costs.
- Annual limits cannot be under $100,000.
- Insurance companies must clearly inform enrolled students whether the provided coverage complies with the above-proposed regulations.
The HHS is also requesting comments as to other ways in which student health insurance would have to change if it was considered to be individual health insurance coverage under The Affordable Care Act.
What are other options for students?
Usually the best option is to remain on a parent’s health insurance plan. The monthly premiums are typically lower and the coverage is generally broader. As part of The Affordable Care Act of 2010, young adults may remain on a parent’s health insurance policy up to age 26 unless offered insurance by an employer.
Students who meet certain age, income and other requirements might also be eligible for Medicaid, a state-run insurance plan that is funded by the federal government. Eligibility requirements vary from state to state; further information about a particular state’s requirements can be found on a state’s department of insurance or health department websites. Most states also offer insurance plans that are separate from Medicaid.
Many private insurance companies also offer packages designed with student budgets in mind. Often, these health packages are limited in coverage or they cover only basic health needs.
There are also high deductible plans, sometimes called catastrophe plans, which start to provide coverage only after a high deductible has been met; these catastrophe plans aim to provide coverage for accidents or serious illnesses that usually result in very high medical bills.
However, any form of health insurance is generally preferable to no health insurance at all.
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