Affordable Care Act
5 Health Care Questions for Moms with College-Bound Kids
Published on April 25, 2014
Updated on 10/2/2019
By Tim White, licensed eHealthInsurance Agent
The one question that I got asked almost every day while working in eHealth’s customer care center was, “Should I keep my college-bound child on the family health plan?”
I vividly remember speaking to a mom named Susan who desperately wanted to make this decision for her 18-year-old son, who was heading off to college in another state.
I remember Susan because we’re from the same hometown, Susan is my sister’s name, and she still calls me once a year to discuss her son’s coverage. Susan’s husband’s employer provides the family’s health coverage, and – for the most part – they’re very happy with it.
When moms like Susan call, they’re usually trying to decide if they should keep a child on the family’s plan or have their child sign up for an individual plan in the state or region where they’re going to school.
There is no right answer as everyone’s situation and health insurance needs are different, but there are five questions every parent should ask before they send their child off to college on the family’s health insurance plan:
- Will your child be moving out of your health plan’s coverage area?
The farther your child moves away from you, the less likely he or she will be to be able to see a doctor who is covered by your insurer’s network of doctors. If your child has to see an out-of-network provider, that may increase your cost-sharing for out-of-pocket medical expenses.
- How much does the insurance cost you each month?
If monthly health insurance premiums are a factor in your decision-making process, check and see what the prices are in the area where your child is going to school. In most states, young people get the lowest rates on health insurance, so you may be able to get your child insured locally for less than what you’re paying on your group plan.
If you or your child need an insurance plan with extremely low premiums, your adult child may qualify for a catastrophic health insurance plan if they are under 30, in generally good health, and need insurance.
- What does the university offer for free?
Most colleges have a medical facility on campus – like a student health center – that you’re already paying for as a part of your tuition costs. Let’s put those college tuition dollars to work by encouraging your child to seek medical care there first!
College health centers often provide simple visits for colds and preventive care at little or no cost to students. Going to the student health care center for treatment for everyday coughs and colds coupled with a less expensive bronze or catastrophic health plan can help provide your adult child with comprehensive coverage even if they’re going to school out of state.
- Is your kid eligible for government assistance?
If your adult child is going to be working while at college and is no longer considered a dependent on your tax filings, and they are moving away from home, your child might be eligible for government subsidies.
If you have his or her new zip code and an estimate of what they will be earning, you can use a subsidy calculator – like the one we have at eHealth.com – to find out what they might be eligible for.
Keep in mind that in order for your child to receive a subsidy for their health insurance, you cannot claim them on your taxes. If your plan you receive through your employer is very expensive, it might be an option to consider.
- Does it make sense to keep your adult child on the family plan?
Obamacare allows you to keep your adult child enrolled in the family plan until they turn 26. That’s a good option for many, but it may not make the most sense if your child will be living outside of your health insurance plan’s coverage area, with no access to network doctors or medical facilities.
If you do choose to keep your child on your health insurance plan, they may need to schedule preventative visits and other medical procedures while they’re home on school breaks. Or they may need to take time off of school to see a doctor.
These are important factors to consider if your child is going out of state or out of your coverage area.
The good news is, you have options – especially under Obamacare – and you’ve got time to make your decision. You will not have to wait until open enrollment to enroll your child in a plan, if you choose to do so, as your child moving outside of their coverage area triggers a 60-day special enrollment period.
You can’t sign your kid up for his or her own plan until he or she has actually moved, but you will have a 60-day window to do so. Keep in mind that you will need to prove that you experienced this life event in order to enroll your child in a major medical plan if you choose to do so.