We’ve all heard the staggering numbers discussed in the national health care debate—more than 47 million Americans without health insurance. The societal and individual cost is equally staggering, as we collectively pay the costs of the uninsured who can’t pay their medical bills, while individually the patient faces financial ruin. The number one cause of bankruptcy filings in the United States is medical expenses.
College students are no different than other Americans, as a large percentage of them do not have health insurance. Many colleges now require health insurance for their students and will require proof of coverage before you register for classes. Whether or not your school requires health insurance, every college student should have it. Even a relatively minor health issue can cost tens of thousands of dollars—enough to knock you out of school for good if all your funds are used to pay hospitals rather than your tuition.
If you don’t have health insurance coverage, often your school will automatically enroll you in the school plan. School plans range tremendously in quality and value, and although there are many good ones, there are some truly awful ones out there as well. Here are some questions to ask before you enroll in the school plan:
What is the cost, and what is the coverage? School health plans can be costly and limited in coverage, while carrying high deductibles.
Will I be covered only while at school? Out-of-state students on a school medical plan may not be covered when they’re traveling or back home visiting.
Does the plan cover me year-round? Some school health plans may offer coverage only during the school year, leaving students without health insurance during the summer months.
Many students are still covered by their parents’ insurance plans, which can be a very good solution. However, there are a few potential drawbacks to consider before you rely soley on your parents’ plan:
Are you too old? Many companies will kick kids off the plan when they turn 23.
Are you too far from home? If your parents live in another part of the country, you may not have in-network doctors and hospitals around your school, which means expensive out-of-network co-pays and fees.
Are the rates too high? Some plans charge the parents high rates for dependent coverage.
Individual Student Plan
Health insurance designed specifically for students can be an excellent option. Some plans are even designed to provide extra coverage while still on your parents’ plan, just to avoid out-of-network fees and expenses. If you purchase an individual plan, make sure you address the following issues:
Can I see my doctor? Will you be able to go to any doctor or hospital without getting hit with out-of-network fees and expenses? If there is a network, make sure you have plenty of network providers around your school and your home.
Will my coverage last the entire year? Look for a policy that covers you all year, whether you’re in school or at home (or travelling) over the summer.
Can I still use my parents’ plan? If you still have coverage on your parents’ plan, make sure your new plan will work in conjunction with your existing coverage to fill the gaps.
One Web site that offers student health insurance meeting these requirements is student health insurance offers student health insurance that you can purchase while you are a student and then keep forever; as well as short-term student health insurance for after you graduate or while you’re looking for a job. They can also help you figure out if you need coverage and if so, what plan makes sense.
One way or another, make sure you have health insurance. Rates are cheap for healthy young people, and the financial protection insurance provides ensures that you can stay in school and finish your education, even if you have an expensive medical issue.