Health insurance is a complicated and often complex necessity. When students graduate from high school and make plans to attend college, health insurance is probably the last thing on their mind. However, although young adults may be tempted to forgo the hassle (due to the high costs or sense of immortality), it is important to get some form of coverage.
But what coverage is right? What options are there? Many students simply go on to remain covered under their parents’ insurance (which they can do now until the age of 26). Yet in today’s economy, with so many people losing jobs, that insurance is not always available for the dependents. So, if you aren’t covered by your parents, what can you do?
Options for Students
Many colleges offer their own insurance packages for their students that they have drafted through private insurance contractors. These packages are often affordable and can run much cheaper than employer-based group plans, but they may not provide the type of coverage you want or need. Some will only cover medical care expenses (including regular checkups) up to a certain amount.
If you get sick or injured, especially over an extended period of time, this coverage can be used up fairly quickly. Check the premiums and the coverage plans to find out just how much insurance you will get with that package.
Additionally, some plans won’t cover part-time students. This means if you take a lighter load for a semester or take a semester off to work, you may not be eligible for coverage under your plan. These are common loopholes for both school-sponsored and private insurance plans, so make sure you know the fine print.
Another option for health care is to go the private route. This can be tricky to navigate as there are so many different kinds of plans and ranges in prices and premiums. If you aren’t covered by your parents or your job, it is important to find private health insurance that will cover your region.
For example, if you are from California but are going to school on the east coast, your insurance may not cover medical care from physicians outside of your region. Keep this in mind as you shop around so you can find a plan that will not only cover your expenses, but provide coverage while you are at school.
Beware of plans that promote discounted coverage or partial coverage. These are not the same as health insurance and will not provide for all your potential health care needs. For example, some plans are accident-only policies or dread disease policies. These plans advertise coverage for accident-caused injury and medical coverage for specific diseases (e.g. cancer).
While they may sound like a good deal, it is better to avoid them and opt instead for a more comprehensive health insurance plan. A good plan should cover those costs without having to add supplemental insurance policies.
If you can’t get employer-sponsored group coverage, other group policies may be available to you. For example, trade unions, religious institutions, and other professional or fraternal organizations may offer coverage as part of their membership benefits.
However, one downside to these plans is that they are often more limited in the scope of their coverage than traditional employer-based policies. They also tend to have higher premiums because it is unlikely the group will contribute to the cost of the coverage. But this option will still likely be less than paying for an individual policy, especially if you have a pre-existing health condition.
If the school plan isn’t available or you can’t afford either that or the private policies, you may qualify for coverage through Medicaid. You may be eligible based on income or resources, but these requirements vary from state to state, so you will have to check the specific criteria based on your area.
Melanie Hargrave is a wife and homemaker whose pride and joy is her family.