7 Reasons to Buy Your Own Health Plan as a Student
New to college? Returning as an older-but-wiser learner for a fresh degree and a fresh career? As you prepare for the hectic life of a college student, remember to consider your personal needs along with your list of textbooks and supplies. Health insurance might not be high on your priority list as you juggle school, work and a personal life, but it’s an important investment. Whether you’re just starting out in life or not, here are seven good reasons to buy your own health plan as a student.
1 – Your Family Doesn’t Have Insurance
First things first: Everyone should have health insurance. Even generally healthy people need healthcare from time to time, and insurance can help you pay for it. An insurance plan is particularly valuable when you’re facing an expensive procedure or an emergency treatment. When those situations arise, you’ll be glad you have coverage to help you pay the bills.
Your parents might not carry health insurance, but this is one area in which you don’t have to follow their example. You’re out on your own now, and you can make your own decisions about your health and your finances. One of the first choices that you make should be to get your own health insurance while in school. You could sign up for student health insurance, get coverage through the insurance marketplace or a buy temporary health plan. Any of these options will help protect you from hefty medical bills.
2 – You’re Responsible for Your Own Bills
Whether this is your first time shouldering your living costs on your own or not, college is expensive no matter your stage in life. Because you’re responsible for your own bills, you may be tempted to cut things out that don’t seem important, like health insurance. That’s a mistake. Medical costs are high – astronomically high in some cases. One hospital stay can run around $2,000 a day or more depending on what you’re there for and where you live. And even at the lower end of the cost spectrum, a single trip to the doctor for flu symptoms might cost $100 to $200 depending on the provider, not to mention the lab test and any treatment the doctor recommends.
Of course, if you’re responsible for your own healthcare bills, you’re probably also responsible for your own health insurance premiums. Finances can be tight when you’re in school, so you might be concerned about fitting insurance into your budget. In that case, consider short term health insurance, which typically features lower monthly premiums than major medical and will cover the big, unexpected bills rather than routine medical care.
3 – You’re Turning 26 Soon
If you’re 25 or younger, you can be covered on your parents’ health insurance. The Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) requires it. Your family can keep you on their plan even if you’re in college, have a separate residence, get married or have a baby. However, once you turn 26, it will be time to have your own health insurance plan. If your parent gets insurance through work, you may lose that coverage the day you turn 26. If the coverage is through the health insurance marketplace, you may be able to hold on to it through the end of that calendar year. Either way, a change will have to be made.
There may be an extension option if your parents’ insurance is job-based. Through COBRA, you can elect to continue the coverage for up to 36 more months, but you’ll have to pay 100 percent of the premium costs plus an administrative fee. In most cases, seeking a different type of health insurance while in school will be the more affordable option.
4 – You Go to School Far Away from Your Family
Even if you have the option to stay on your parents’ health insurance plan, doing so might not be the most sensible option for you. Many major medical plans have limited network coverage. If you go to school more than a few hours away from your hometown, there might not be any in-network providers nearby. You can schedule well visits for your summer breaks at home, but you’ll have to see a non-network provider if an emergency comes up at school.
Major medical plans with national networks usually charge higher premiums to cover that benefit. There’s a good chance that your parents’ plan may not offer this feature. In that case, it can make more sense to get your own temporary health insurance while in school. Unlike standard insurance plans, temporary plans don’t usually have network restrictions, so you can receive care no matter where you go to school.
5 – You Want the Freedom to Travel
Many students stay in-state for college, and your parents’ insurance network may cover you just fine while you’re at a local school. But travel is an important part of the college experience for many students. A non-national network may limit whether you feel free to head to the beach for spring break or take an out-of-state internship over the summer.
For those who’re concerned about sticking with a plan that doesn’t have nationwide coverage, getting short term health insurance during school is a viable alternative. Since you may be able to use a limited-duration health insurance plan with any provider, you might have greater flexibility in traveling the country as you go through your program.
6 – You Value Your Privacy
When you’re on your parents’ health insurance plan, they may find out about medical treatments that you receive. An insurance company will issue an “explanation of benefits” document to the policyholder when someone receives care. If your parents own the policy, they may be the ones who receive this information.
Although your parents won’t have full access to your medical records, the explanation of benefits will probably outline the charges that were issued. From this, they might be able to draw conclusions about your treatment or even your medical history, if they don’t know already. If you want to reduce prying questions about your medical care, it’s probably better to buy your own health insurance instead of remaining on their plan. Some states have laws in place – or are working on them – to protect young adults on their parents’ health plan, so don’t assume your parents will automatically have access to all of your information. But it is worth noting that HIPPA laws don’t necessarily protect your privacy when it comes to being on someone else’s insurance plan.
7 – You’re Thinking About the Future
Yes, health insurance comes at a price – and a hefty one at that. Each month, you’ll need to submit your premium payment to maintain coverage, not to mention the copays and deductible that you have to meet before the coverage even kicks in. When you’re on a tight budget, it can be hard to set aside money for an insurance plan that you may not even need that month.
If you’re struggling to commit to a monthly premium or the costs associated with your plan, try a new perspective on health insurance. Think of it as an investment in your future. For just over $100 a month, which is the average cost of a short term health plan, you can give yourself a safety net in case you find yourself in a medical emergency. Without that safety net, an injury or an illness can leave you responsible for thousands of dollars in medical bills. You’ll have to keep paying on that debt until it’s gone, possibly long after you graduate from college. Paying health insurance premiums now is a way to protect yourself against debt in the future.