Individual and Family
Health Insurance Options for Students
Updated on November 14, 2019
Going to college is stressful enough without worrying about the costs of healthcare services. One thing that is often overlooked when going back to school is a student’s health insurance.
While you’re away at college you may get sick, injured, or need some sort of health care service. If you go without health insurance coverage – or coverage that is available in your area – you could end up having to pay steep medical bills.
However, as a student you have several options for health insurance regardless of what your income is, where you’re going to school, and how old you are.
Stay on your parent’s insurance
If you are under the age of 26, you are able to stay on your parent’s health insurance plan. Thanks to provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), adult children are able to stay on their parent’s health insurance plan until they turn 26.
This is a great option if you are going to college in your parent’s home state as your health insurance plan is more likely to cover providers in your area than if you were going out of state for school.
However, if you do choose to go out of state for school your plan may not cover providers in the area where you will be going to school. According to Cheryl Fish-Parcham of Families USA, some insurance companies may have affiliated networks in other states, but you will need to check with your particular plan.
If you choose to remain on your parent’s health insurance while you are in school, you may want to schedule preventative health care services while you are home on summer vacation or other times you visit home in order to receive in-network care. This solution to student health insurance may not be the right one for you if you live very far away from your parents and their health care network.
Staying on your parent’s plan may force you to make difficult choices as a student. For instance, if you cannot receive in-network care near your university and end up needing long-term care for a more serious illness or injury, you may end up paying large medical bills or be forced to take time off of school to receive affordable care near home.
Sign up for student health insurance at your university
There are many college that off their own student health insurance plans. These colleges either work with an insurance company or plans may be self-insured by the school.
A lot of times the cost of these plans is grouped in with your tuition, which can be helpful because you can use student loans to help pay for your health insurance premiums.
These plans may appeal to you if you’re going to school outside of the coverage range of your parent’s health insurance, or if you are over the age of 26.
It is a good idea to make sure that these plans cover the services you need. These student health insurance plans provided by your school may be more limited than other individual health insurance plans. For instance, some school health insurance plans will not pay for services to treat injuries to a student who got hut while intoxicated according to Bankrate.com.
However, there are some universities that automatically enroll their students in their health insurance plans. If you are insured through your parents, your own health plan, or in another way you will want to make sure you opt out of this coverage, so you’re not paying to be on two different plans at the same time.
In some cases in order to opt out of health insurance coverage, you may have to show evidence that you have equal or better health insurance coverage through another insurance company or program.
Purchase a marketplace health insurance plan
If you are over 26, moving outside of your parent’s plan’s coverage area, or if your school does not offer a health insurance plan, or does not offer a plan that meets your needs, you may want to purchase your own student health insurance.
You can purchase an individual health insurance plan during the open enrollment period, which typically runs from November 1st through December 15th, or you may qualify for a special enrollment period so that you may enroll during anytime of the year.
A special enrollment period is triggered by a qualifying life event. Turing 26 and moving out of your coverage area to go to school are both examples of a qualifying life event that will trigger a special enrollment period. Keep in mind that you will need to provide proof that you have experienced one of these qualifying life events in order to enroll. These special enrollment periods typically last 60 days and allow you to shop and apply for coverage.
You can apply for health insurance during a special enrollment period through your state or federal marketplace, or through an online broker such as eHealth.
Additionally, your estimated income for the year will determine how much you will pay for your health insurance coverage. So long as you are enrolled in the lowest-priced bronze plan available in your area, you will be eligible for ACA subsidies that will help you afford your monthly premiums.
Typically you will be eligible for subsidies if your income falls between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty line (FPL). This is helpful for students who are only able to work part-time, if at all, while they are getting their education.
Purchase catastrophic coverage
Catastrophic coverage is available to Americans under 30-years-old who are in generally good health. These plans come with lower premiums but tend to have higher deductibles.
These plans will help cover preventative care visits at little to no charge, you are likely to have an extremely large deductible – typically of more than $6,000.
These plans are helpful for those who are looking to save money, have some health insurance for worst case scenarios, and save on preventative care visits.
However, it is recommended that you compare catastrophic coverage with lower priced Marketplace health insurance plans available in your area. Unlike Marketplace plans, you will not be able to qualify for subsidies to help pay for the costs of catastrophic plans.
Make sure to compare catastrophic plans with marketplace plans with more comprehensive coverage to make sure you get the coverage that you need at an affordable cost.
Apply for Medicaid
You also have the option as a student to apply for Medicaid, and use that as a form of “student health insurance”. This option may appeal to those who are 26 or older, don’t receive coverage through their parents, or moving outside of their coverage area.
Additionally, this may be the best option for comprehensive health insurance if you are unable to work while receiving your education.