Thanksgiving Health Insurance Ritual for College Students

TA | January 1, 2010

MedSave.com is preparing for a lesser-known Thanksgiving tradition this week as college students return home for the holiday break. Many families have their first opportunity for a serious talk about finances and campus issues since students left home in August.

Thousands of families nationwide who have been exposed to the limitations of campus-based health plans now make improving the student's health insurance a high priority on their "to do" list. MedSave.com provides personal support online and by telephone for students and their parents who are enrolling in health insurance. Requests for help hit record levels last year and MedSave.com expects more of the same during this holiday break. MedSave.com focuses on providing support for low cost health insurance, so the company tends to serve a higher percentage of students than other online enrollment firms.

Kim Morris, head of OnlineAdviser service at MedSave.com, speculates on the possible reasons for the surprising trend:

First, some college students who enrolled in the college's on-campus health plan in September simply because it was easiest and least expensive. They now realize that they want the option to be treated by other medical providers outside the college or need health insurance while traveling away from campus or visiting parents and friends back home.

Second, parents who left their college students on their family-type managed care health plans learned that there are too many hassles and out-of-pocket costs for the student seeking coverage outside of the parent's local area. Most health plans pay a lower level of benefits for "out-of-network charges" that hurts college students living away from home.

Finally, it might simply be that this is the first opportunity that families have had to deal with financial issues since their child left home in September.

Student health plans at MedSave.com cover all ordinary medical charges equally - regardless of the student's location or choice of medical provider - so these may be a more attractive option by comparison. The cost student health insurance is minimal compared to the price of regular adult health insurance. Morris estimates that the average cost for a college student's heath insurance on a national basis is just under $400 per semester, down slightly from last year. The reason for the decline, she explains, is that families are now opting for higher policy deductibles than were typically used in the past. This makes financial sense as long as the student has access to funds for regular preventative medical care.

"Many people are surprised to learn that by taking a policy with a deductible of $1000 or $2500, a full coverage major medical insurance that offers nationwide or international coverage with any medical provider is priced less than the strictly limited benefit campus-based polices".

In addition to the price of insurance, Morris says, a family should budget $200 to $300 per year for out-of-pocket costs and preventative medical care that is not covered by insurance. She adds that it makes more sense to pay these expenses in cash than to try to cover them through an insurance policy.

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