Sending your child off to college comes with a lengthy to-do list. One important thing to check off won’t fit in the minivan along with the microwave and mini-fridge. It’s their health care coverage.
Students need health insurance, but it isn’t one-size-fits-all.
Staying on Your Coverage
Many parents keep their dependent children on their own health plans until they turn 26. This helps them manage their student’s coverage. And dependent children can stay on their parents’ plans even if they:
- Start or leave school
- Get married
- Have a child
- Live on their own
- Aren’t claimed as a dependent on their parent’s taxes
- Have a job that offers health insurance
- Are over age 26, depending on the rules of the health plan and state of residence
Decisions about health care can be difficult, and your children may need help even after they’re out of the house. That’s why it’s important for you to get the facts on health services near where they will be living. Do this research before they need care to avoid a costly visit to an out-of-network doctor. If that happens, your plan may not cover all or even part of the cost.
Check to see:
- Are there doctors and hospitals on your plan’s network near the college?
- Is there an urgent care center?
- Does your plan include a local pharmacy? If your student needs long-term medication, can you use a mail order pharmacy?
Some parents help their students get a separate health insurance plan. Your guidance is important for young people who don’t know what questions to ask or what issues to consider. They often haven’t even thought about health coverage.
Keep in mind:
- Does your student have a job that offers health plan choices?
- Does your student need help choosing and buying an individual health plan?
- Has your student thought about the college’s student health plan?
- Would your student qualify for Medicaid? (It’s an option for some people with low incomes.)
If your student needs an individual health plan, you have options. Learn more about our individual plans.
You can also explore choices on the health insurance marketplace. In some cases, students may get cost-sharing assistance.
Student Health Plans
A student health plan may be a good choice for basic care, and the rates could be lower than a marketplace plan or a parent’s employer group plan.
Not all student health insurance plans are the same, so make sure to do your research. Check your school’s website or call to see if they have a school-sponsored plan. Each school will have facts about the plans they offer and the costs and coverage limits.
Most plans offer quality coverage that is compatible with the Affordable Care Act. That means they include essential health benefits such as:
- Emergency services
- Hospital stays
- Behavioral health services (including substance abuse treatment)
- Preventive and wellness services
- Prescription drugs
- Lab tests
- Ongoing disease management
Students may find an on-campus health center to be a handy choice for routine needs, such as allergy shots, flu shots and strep tests.
Students should find out the school health center’s location, hours and the number to call after hours when they arrive on campus at the start of the semester. They should ask about the health center’s fees and how they handle health insurance.
Sources: How to Get or Stay on a Parent’s Plan, Healthcare.gov, 2018; Health Insurance Basics for College Students, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, 2017; Tips for College Health and Safety, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016; Students Under Pressure, American Psychological Association, 2014