Health Insurance

Health Insurance Guide for College Students

Health Insurance Guide for College Students

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College students have many options for health insurance. However, there are advantages and disadvantages to each type of insurance. The best plan for you depends on your financial situation and health insurance needs. However, college students must also take into account where they are going to school when deciding what the best student health insurance is for them.

What's the best health insurance for college students?

Most college students and young adults will have four options for buying health insurance:

  • Staying on your parents' health plan
  • School-sponsored care
  • Student health plans
  • Obamacare

These health insurance plans vary in cost, where you can purchase the policy, and whether the policy can follow you to school. Generally, staying on your parents' plan is the cheapest option. Below, we've outlined the advantages and disadvantages of the best and cheapest health insurance options for college students.

Staying on your parents' health plan

Parents can keep a child on their health insurance plan until the child is 26 years old. So the cheapest health insurance for most college students is usually their parents' policy. However, this may not be possible for students who have aged out of this option.

However, even if you are under 26 years old you may still not be able to stay on your parents' health insurance due to the state your college is in. This may be due to the health insurance policy not having in-network providers within that state. For example, your parents could have UnitedHealthCare (UHC) in New York where UHC has a large provider network but your school in Texas may not have coverage.

For this reason, you or your parents should contact the health insurance company. Ask whether the coverage network extends to the city or state where your college is located.

School-sponsored care

Many colleges and universities offer their own full-coverage health insurance plans. This could be a convenient option for you. The main advantage of selecting a school policy is that the monthly premiums can be grouped within your tuition and room and board expenses. Therefore, you may be able to use student loans to pay for your health insurance costs.

However, students should be aware that the school-sponsored health insurance plan may not cover services received outside of the university. For example, if you visit an emergency room away from school, then the policy may not cover the costs.

Student health plans

Student health plans are offered by insurance companies and designed for students ages 17–29. You can pay the premium annually or semiannually, and unlike a school-sponsored plan, they travel with you wherever you study in the U.S. So if you begin your studies at one university and decide to transfer to another school during the year, then your student health plan would transfer with you.

Obamacare

Students may purchase an individual health insurance policy through their state health insurance exchange during the open enrollment period. This may be a good option if you have a tight budget and don't anticipate ongoing medical costs. Catastrophic policies are available to people younger than 30 and have very low monthly premiums and high deductibles. Furthermore, Obamacare policies are guaranteed to cover the 10 essential health benefits and will follow you no matter what state you attend college.

Is health insurance mandatory for college students?

Yes, colleges and universities typically require students to provide proof of health insurance before the beginning of the new school year. This is to protect students. If a student is uninsured and incurs a large medical expense, it could force them to leave school or prevent them from graduating.

Once you submit your insurance documentation, the college will confirm it at least meets the standards of the school-sponsored plan. If the school approves your policy, then you won't have to enroll in the college's health insurance policy.

Sterling Price

Sterling Price is a research analyst at ValuePenguin specializing in health and life insurance. He graduated from Syracuse University with a bachelors degree in Finance and Accounting and has previous experience as a licensed life insurance representative.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.