College is widely considered to be one of the best eras in a person’s life. You’re meeting new people, learning new things and becoming a fresh, exciting version of yourself. It’s important to be prepared, and we’re not just talking books and dorm décor.
It may not be as fun to think about, but health insurance is an important part of taking care of yourself as a student. But where can you find a good plan, what should you look for, and how much will it cost? Here’s what you need to know.
Do college students need health insurance?
Many colleges require that students have health insurance. And it makes sense, right? That’s a lot of people in one place, especially for students who live on campus. This level of proximity makes it easier for germs to spread – especially respiratory illnesses like the flu. If you were to get sick, injured or need additional support, it’s better to have coverage. This way you can get the care you need no matter what your financial situation looks like.
Is health insurance affordable for students?
Yes, health insurance can be affordable for students, and there are a lot of different ways to be insured. A good plan doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, a good health insurance plan can help you save money by reducing what you pay for care.
Health insurance options for college students
So, where can you get started? There are many simple, flexible insurance options for students to choose from – but what will work best for you? It all depends on what kind of coverage you need and what type of plan you’re eligible to enroll in. Here are a few options to consider.
Staying on your parents’ health insurance plan
For students under the age of 26, you might be able to stay on your parents’ health plan. If available to you, this is a great option, since you don’t need to take any action – most likely, you’re already covered. However, it’s important to consider both in- and out-of-state insurance limitations.
If your family is on a plan that’s very network-focused, and your care providers are local to your hometown or home state, that can put you in a bit of a bind if you choose a faraway school. Health care services are typically more expensive when you’re out of network.
To see if your parents’ health plan is still the best option, you can sit down with them to go over network limitations and benefits. Or, you can call your insurance provider to ask more direct questions. There are plenty of options available when it comes to health insurance for students.
Enrolling in a university health plan
Since many universities require that you have health coverage to attend, schools sometimes offer their own student health plans. This can be a good option if you’re from out of state, since a university health plan will cover doctors nearby.
These plans aren’t limited to age – as long as you’re a student, you can enroll. In terms of what a student plan is most likely to cover, there’s no easy answer. Each university is different. Take a look at your school’s offerings well in advance, and ask yourself:
- Does it cover preventive care, either entirely or in a way that’s lower in cost?
- What additional health benefits does this plan offer?
- Does it have monthly premiums, deductibles or out-of-pocket maximums that make sense with my financial situation?
If that seems a little overwhelming, don’t worry. Start by comparing coverage, benefits, payments and more with your existing plan – this will give you a good idea of where to begin.
But what about cost? Are university insurance offerings more affordable? Often, if you’ve taken out a student loan or received a scholarship, you can use a portion of this money to cover your student health plan too.
Finding a plan in the health insurance marketplace
For more coverage options, you can look at what plans your state’s health insurance marketplace is offering. This health exchange allows individuals and families to compare, shop for and enroll in health coverage – in Minnesota, the health insurance marketplace is called MNsure.
If you a find a plan that fits your needs and you’d like to enroll, keep an eye on your marketplace’s annual open enrollment period – this is the window of time when you can enroll in marketplace coverage for the following year. Open enrollment in 2022 is Nov. 1 – Jan. 15.
However, many health insurance marketplaces also offer what’s called a “special enrollment period.” This is when a qualifying life event makes you eligible to enroll in coverage outside of the typical enrollment period. For some marketplaces, college enrollment applies.
Do students qualify for Medicaid?
Medicaid is an affordable insurance option for low-income students in need of coverage. If you aren’t considered a dependent on your family’s tax return, and you make less than a specific amount per year, you may be eligible to enroll.
However, Medicaid can be a little tricky. In most cases, you must live in the state that’s providing your Medicaid plan. Moving out of state to attend college could compromise your access to coverage. Also, since Medicaid insurance eligibility varies depending on where you live, it’s possible that you might have other qualifying factors to consider. If you have questions, or want to see if you’re eligible, get in contact with your state’s Medicaid program.
Getting on board with an employer-sponsored health insurance plan
For working students who are over 26 or even those younger who can’t be on their parents’ plan, an employer-sponsored health insurance plan is a solid option. In most cases, it’s a more economical option than the marketplace.
Those who are offered health plans through their employer most likely work full-time. For part-time employees, although some businesses may offer insurance plans, you might have to look elsewhere – like an individual health plan. This is coverage that you purchase on your own. You can buy a plan directly from an insurance provider or the health insurance marketplace.
Have more questions about your health insurance options?
Our experts will help you find a health plan you’re confident in – no matter your situation.