Student Health Insurance Options

September 6, 2010

Under new health coverage guidelines, most students can remain on their parents insurance policies until age 26. However, some young Americans may prefer other options.

Health Insurance for Students

Picking classes, passing exams, and planning for a career may be among your highest priorities if you are a college student. Getting sick probably isn't something you think of very often; however, the right medical insurance coverage can help you stay healthy through the rigors of your degree program. Seeking treatment at the first sign of illness can mean the difference between graduating on time and taking time off from school to deal with the impact of a major health condition.

Parents' & Grandparents' Medical Insurance

Under recently enacted medical coverage rules, you can remain listed as a "dependent" on your parents' health care plan until age 26. In seven states, your grandparents can also list you as a dependent if you meet certain residency and status requirements. This is often the most affordable health insurance for students and their families, especially when parents enroll in employer-sponsored health care plans. Piggybacking on your parent's health care plan can give you plenty of advantages. You're likely to keep the same primary care physician you visited while you were in high school, especially if you still live at home.

Relying on your parents' health insurance provider has its pitfalls, however. If you attend a school away from home, you might find it challenging to locate health care providers within your parents' network. HMO plans that require pre-approvals or referrals could make it hard for you to seek specialty care. You may also need to coordinate any reimbursements through your parents instead of contacting medical insurance specialists directly.

Student Health Insurance

If you're stretching your wings, you might consider a student health insurance plan offered through your school or advertised on campus. Most colleges and universities offer basic student health insurance programs, and some degree programs may even have minimum health insurance requirements. Keep in mind that many low cost health insurance options rely on school wellness initiatives. For many routine illnesses, you may need to seek treatment at a campus health clinic rather than at a doctor's office or at an emergency room.

Individual Medical Insurance

If you are young and healthy, an individual health insurance policy with a high deductible may be a good option. If you rarely get sick and want to protect yourself against the most unexpected and severe illnesses, you can select a catastrophic policy paired with a health savings account. Depending on your course of study, you may even qualify for group insurance programs sponsored by professional associations. Enrolling in your own health insurance plan while still in college can help you establish your independence, but it may come at a price. You have to make premium payments on time, and you are responsible for more out-of-pocket costs.

As with any kind of medical insurance, it's important to weigh all of your options before making a decision. Talk to your parents about your options--you may already be covered under their existing health insurance plans. Campus health officers can inform you about your school's health insurance options for students. Most important, request free insurance quotes online if you are considering an individual health insurance policy.

Joe Taylor Jr.

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