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Healthcare for College Students

Healthcare: What You Need to Know as a College Student


Healthcare coverage may not be something you think about all that often as a college student, but in the event you get sick at school, and need to visit the doctor or the emergency room, it’s always wise to have a plan when it comes to healthcare. So what are your options? Well, as a college student, there are a variety of avenues you can take in order to have complete coverage while at school.

Option #1: Stay on Your Parents’ Plan

Under the new health care laws enacted in 2010, students can now stay on their parents’ plan until the age of 26. If you’re going to school in a different state, however, it's important to contact the insurance company directly to make sure there will be in-network providers near campus. Most large insurers do offer this feature, but it doesn’t hurt to double check and make sure. Additionally, parents and students should find out how the insurer will reimburse emergency care claims in the college town. The potential absence of in-network coverage can create extra expenses for students and force them into making difficult choices, like the possibility of leaving school for a long-term illness.

Option #2: Sign Up for a Student Health Plan Through Your School

Many colleges offer their own health plans to students. A college may work with an insurance company, which pays any claims, or plans may be self-insured by the school, which makes the payouts directly. College health plans have a major advantage over other health insurance options because the premium costs are grouped with other higher education expenses, such as tuition and room and board, so your student loans, grants and scholarships can be applied to insurance costs. If you are an older student that is unable to remain on your parents’ health insurance plan, student health plans could provide the perfect solution. Be wary with student health insurance, however, because sometimes school plans offer more limited coverage than individual health plans. Examine student health plans carefully because there may be something like yearly limits on claims or doctor visits.

Option #3: Buy Subsidized Coverage Under the Affordable Care Act

Americans now have the opportunity to shop for health insurance on the Affordable Care Act health insurance exchanges, or online marketplaces, and if your budget is tight, this option could be the solution to your healthcare needs. People using the marketplaces can qualify for tax credits to reduce their monthly insurance premiums. You're eligible if your household income is up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level and you meet other criteria, such as not being able to get affordable coverage through an employer. It all depends on your income, but if you qualify, the Affordable Care Act could mean substantial discounts on health insurance. Comprehensive healthcare providers are available, so take care to explore your options instead of just going with the cheapest option, as you may not get the best benefits that way.

Option #4: Purchase Catastrophic Coverage

Within the marketplace exchanges, Americans under 30 have the option of purchasing "catastrophic" health plans with lower premiums and higher deductibles. The price is attractive to many a starving student, but there is a little bit of give and take involved. While initial preventive care visits are covered at no charge, these plans come with deductibles of more than $6,000. So, one serious accident or unexpected disease diagnosis could lead to a real financial crisis. It’s up to you to take the risk.

There are such a multitude of healthcare options for students that it shouldn’t even be an option to go without health insurance. Especially if you are away from home, having that security that you can take care of yourself during an illness is invaluable. For traditional students, staying on your parents’ plan is probably your best bet, but for those older students returning to school, or for those whose parents may not have health insurance, there are low-cost, budget-friendly options that can still provide you with the coverage you need.

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