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March 15, 2024

When you’re in college, you still have the advantage of staying on your parents’ health insurance plan until you’re 26-years-old. However, not everyone’s parents have insurance or can afford to pay for their childrens’ coverage. You might also want to or have to buy your own health insurance for personal reasons. In any case, this guide to health insurance for college students will walk you through all your options.

Health Insurance Options for College Students

College students may think health insurance is unaffordable, but there are several possibilities to get coverage without breaking the bank. These are the top three ways to get health insurance in college.

University-Sponsored Plans

Many universities offer their own health insurance plans you can pay for. These plans typically give you access to a group of doctors (called a “network” in health insurance lingo) that accept your coverage. For example, many college health insurance companies use Wellfleet, which specializes in offering health coverage to higher education institutions. Talk to your university about the health plans they offer and their costs.

Individual Marketplace Plans

You can buy your own health insurance on the Marketplace, a government service that helps you find policies and compare providers. You can only purchase Marketplace health insurance during the open enrollment period, which occurs every year from November through January. Usually, the open enrollment period in Florida is November 1st through January 15th, though the dates can change slightly each year. Check https://www.healthcare.gov/ for more information.

Parents’ Plans

Another option for college students younger than 26 is to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans. This is the easiest way to stay covered, but it can also increase costs for your parents. You may find it’s easier to contribute directly to your parents to pay their monthly bill (premium), instead of paying for your own coverage. After age 26, adults have to purchase their own health insurance plans or apply for government assistance.

Key Health Insurance Benefits for College Students

You may think that health insurance doesn’t matter when you’re still young and healthy, but there are benefits to coverage even though it’s an added monthly cost. Having health insurance offers you access to care when you need it most, especially in unexpected situations.

While paying for health insurance may raise your expenses, it can still offset the costs of paying for an unexpected medical bill.

Preventive Care and Wellness

Routine check-ups and vaccinations keep you healthy and lower your overall risk of disease. Being in good health can lower your cost of health insurance. Visiting your doctor at least once a year and staying current on vaccinations protects your health and helps you manage any risks you may have for chronic conditions like diabetes or heart disease.

Emergency Medical Services

Life can take a sudden turn at any moment, and finding out you owe a hospital $10,000 for an ER visit is something no one wants to experience. The costs of treatment, surgery, and hospitalization can quickly surpass six-figures depending on the situation. Even a visit to urgent care can set you back hundreds or thousands. Having coverage ensures your expenses are more limited, which can also make you more likely to seek care when you need it. Too many students avoid getting healthcare because they’re afraid of the bill.

Mental Health Coverage

Mental health counseling and psychiatric services are covered by health insurance. In fact, they’re considered essential health benefits. So, whether you need medication, therapy, or both, having coverage can make the costs more manageable and open the doorway to treatment. Substance use disorder treatment also falls under the category of mental health treatment, so if you struggle with drinking or drug use and want help, your health insurance could lower the cost of treatment.

Considerations for Out-of-State Students

Health insurance rates are affected by where you live. If you’re studying outside of Florida, then you may find that health insurance costs more or less depending on the location. If you buy health insurance, then you’ll find that they likely have national coverage. Major providers are available throughout the U.S., ensuring you can easily use your insurance wherever you go.

If you want to change insurance after moving to a new state, this counts as a qualifying life event (QLE), which means you can enroll for coverage outside of the typical open enrollment period. If you’re moving out-of-state for college, be sure to ask your provider how this could affect your coverage.

Choosing the Right Health Insurance Plan

Buying health insurance for the first time is daunting, but once you know the basics of coverage, it’s easy to choose a good provider. The key to getting the best deal is to not only set limits for your budget but understand how health insurance works. Once you know how different types of health insurance models operate, you can better invest your money to get the care you need.

Assessing Plan Options

There are various types of health insurance available, such as comprehensive coverage and catastrophic plans. The former are all-inclusive types of health insurance that cover things like regular doctor’s visits, mental health treatment, and specialized care. A catastrophic plan is designed to cover urgent treatment and emergency medical care.

You should also know about the five types of health insurance plans available:

  • HMO: A Health Maintenance Organization requires you to use doctors in its network. This means you don’t have coverage if you choose someone out of the network for your care. However, HMOs tend to have the lowest deductibles (the amount of money you pay until insurance covers costs) and premiums (your monthly bill for having health insurance that does not go toward your deductible).
  • POS: A Point of Service plan covers out-of-network doctors for a higher cost, but it expands on the HMO model to give you more options.
  • PPO: A Preferred Provider Organization gives you greater flexibility, so you can see providers out-of-network without a referral. However, because they offer a broader range of healthcare access, the costs can be higher.
  • EPO: An Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO) has a larger network than an HMO, but you are only allowed to see doctors in your network. Some require referrals to see specialists while others don’t. EPOs are like an expanded HMO with some features of a PPO.
  • HDHP: A High Deductible Health Plan costs more overall, but it has lower premiums. There are also many free benefits built into the plan, like annual screenings, a yearly check-up, and vaccines. Certain services may only be free after a certain age. Overall, this plan can be good for a healthy college student who wants coverage in case of emergencies but is on a tight budget.

Specialized Coverage Needs

For students who have special needs, like chronic conditions or essential medications, it’s important to look for plans that fully cover your care. Be sure to thoroughly evaluate plans to make sure you find one that provides the level of coverage you need.

Enrollment and Renewal

The Open Enrollment Period occurs once a year. During that time, you can either change your health insurance policy with your current company or switch to a new provider. The renewal period for your health insurance is based on the date you signed up. You can renew a plan to keep it exactly the same, or update it if your needs have changed. Furthermore, having a qualifying life event will allow you to buy coverage or modify your health insurance plan outside of the annual enrollment period.

The Bottom Line

Having health insurance in college can save you thousands of dollars and ensure you have access to important preventive care. Even if you don’t stay on your parents’ plans, there are affordable options out there. The team at Live Health is here to help you find a policy that fits within your budget without cutting corners. Contact us today to learn more!

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