College Student Health Insurance
Student health insurance should be part of college planning
Let's face it, when planning for college, student health insurance coverage is all too often a neglected topic. After all, the entire college planning process can be overwhelming for both students and parents. With major decisions to be made, such as determining which university to attend, choosing a major, navigating the ins-and-outs of student and parent loans, and selecting housing and roommates; student health insurance is hardly given a thought for the otherwise healthy student.
But without student health insurance, or adequate insurance coverage, a college student could wind up in a financial disaster if a major illness or accident strikes.
After high school graduation and before your son or daughter goes off to a university, be sure to research and weigh the pros and cons of student health insurance. Basically, there are three different ways to get health insurance for college students:
- Parent's health insurance plan
- College health insurance plan
- Individual health insurance plan
Carefully consider how much student insurance is enough.
Parent's health insurance plan
The healthcare reform bill allows for college students to remain on their parents' employer health plan until the age of 26, unless covered by their own employer health plan.
This is a terrific student health insurance option since employer health plans usually provide the best coverage. For the student going straight from high school to college there's really nothing to do but leave them on the already-existing plan.
However, if the student goes to college far from home, having health insurance solely through the parents' health plan may not be adequate. At best, most of these types of plans will only cover out-of-network medical expenses and emergencies, leaving the student and parents at risk for high out-of-pocket bills.
In circumstances where the student attends college far from home, purchasing a student insurance plan through the college, in addition to the parents' employer plan, should be strongly considered.
Student insurance is available at most four-year colleges.
College student medical insurance plans
The U.S. Government Accounting Office (GAO) states in their 2008 Health Insurance Report for College Students that:
- Half of colleges nationwide offered student insurance plans
- Annual premiums at colleges ranged from $30 to $2,400
- 30 percent of colleges nationwide required students to have health insurance
In fact, many colleges will automatically include the student on the college's health plan, unless the student/parents opt out. Keep in mind, student insurance offered by college may have lower limits and less coverage which could be problematic for a serious illness.
How Student Insurance Can Make a Difference: Our Story
A few weeks after the dust settled from getting our son moved into college four hours away from home, we were faced with the dreaded bill for his first semester away at college. Of course, the college statement itemized the expected tuition, books, and, room & board costs, but the endless list of additional fees was quite shocking.
One such fee was $100 for student insurance. In an attempt to save some money, we intended to remove our son from the college's health plan since he was already covered on our family's employer plan. I completely forgot to cancel the student insurance and as it turned out, my forgetfulness saved us a lot of out-of-pocket expenses.
A couple of months into his first semester away from home our son herniated a disc in his back and had no choice but to see the medical staff at college. Several medical appointments and prescriptions later, we were only out $3 thanks to his college student insurance. And the surgery, performed in-network nearby home, is covered by our employer's plan. Paying $100 for the student health insurance, combined with employer insurance coverage, turned out to be a real money-saver.
Individual health insurance plan
For students not eligible to be part of a parent's health insurance plan, or who do not have such a plan available to them, purchasing an individual health insurance plan may be necessary if the student health insurance offered by the college does not seem satisfactory.
While the premiums for an individual health insurance plan may be reasonable, co-pays and deductibles could possibly be high. For students with a pre-existing condition the premiums may be even higher.
Interested students can get a student health insurance quote from eHealthInsurance.
Students with insurance are more likely to complete college
Student health insurance plans: don't be an uninsured college student
According to the GAO report, about 20% of college students are uninsured. Sadly, students who are uninsured are more likely to drop out of school. A common illness, easily treated with antibiotics for the insured student, can quickly turn into many missed days of classes, perhaps a more serious illness, and large medical expenses for the uninsured student!
Taking the time to figure out the best student health insurance option for college students should be part of every parent's and student's college planning -- after all, having student insurance can make the difference between completing college or not.
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