Health Insurance Options for College Students
According to HealthCare.gov, each of the options below is available for college students.
- Your parent’s insurance: Children are permitted to remain on their parent’s insurance until they are 26 years old.
- Student health plans: Many colleges and universities offer a student health plan. In many cases, this is much cheaper than purchasing your own health insurance and gives you the basic coverage you need.
- Individual health insurance: You can enroll in your own health insurance program that covers the essentials. Catastrophic health plans are available for individuals under 30. Catastrophic plans cover severe illness or injury and can be more affordable than full health insurance coverage.
- Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program: If you apply for individual coverage, you may discover you are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP. If you qualify for one of these government-funded programs, you can begin coverage immediately.
Each of the options above is available to all college students but it may be wise to compare the cost of each side-by-side. You may find that remaining on the family’s health plan may prove to be cheaper than a student health plan or individual coverage.
Do You Need Health Insurance?
You may be able to save the money you planned to spend on insurance altogether. You’ll need to take note of a few things before you decide to do so though.
This year, the health insurance mandate will subject individuals without insurance to a $695 tax penalty per adult and up to $2,085 per family. While the new tax law signed by President Trump removed the mandate, it is not in effect until 2019. So, anyone without health insurance in 2018 will still be required to pay these fees.
However, many students won’t be subjected to the fines at all because most won’t be making enough money to file income taxes ($10,000 a year or less). So, you probably don’t need health insurance for college students to avoid a fine but the decision to go uninsured should not be taken lightly.
Generally, it is a good idea to hold health insurance at all times. This helps ensure you will have the means to pay for a doctor visit, ER visit, or other medical procedure, whether money is tight or not.
Health Insurance Tips for College Students
If you do decide to purchase health insurance for yourself or your child, there are two things to keep in mind if they are traveling to school.
- Know where to go (within your network): Once you get settled in into your dorm, find out what local offices accept your insurance. It is a good idea to get the name and number of an eye doctor, dentist, and general practitioner in the area. Then, make a well visit with them and get your insurance on file.
- Pick a local pharmacy that accepts your insurance: Once you find a doctor that will accept your insurance plan, you’ll need to find a pharmacy that works with your coverage as well. Most of the time, your doctor’s office can point you in the right direction. You can also call the number on the back of your insurance card for more information.
If you’ve been considering buying a new health insurance plan for your college student (or yourself), consider all of your options and the cost of each. Then make an educated decision based on what is best for your health and finances.