Don’t Head Back to School Without Health Insurance
As you prepare for college life by packing books, pencils and dorm essentials, don’t forget to tuck your health insurance card in with your gear. If you don’t yet have a health insurance plan, it’s time to get one. Health insurance should be on every college student’s school supply list. You might be young and healthy as a typical college student, but that doesn’t protect you from getting hurt or sick at some point. In fact, during your time as a student, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll need medical care from time to time. It’s important to have health insurance while in school so you’ll be prepared for the accidents and illnesses that are sure to come.
Nearly 40 million people report to the emergency room with injuries every year, and over 92 million go to the doctor because they’re hurt. You never know when you’re going suffer an injury and need insurance to help pay for the treatment. Your active college lifestyle could leave you particularly susceptible to accidents. You could get injured while riding your bike to class, taking an afternoon hike with friends or working out in the fitness center.
Even being a homebody is no guarantee against injury. Accidents in the home (or dorm room) are common, and research shows that you have the greatest chance of being injured emergency room with injuries Falling off the top bunk in your room might not be a glamorous way to break your wrist, but treating the resulting fracture is going to cost the same no matter how it happens. Health insurance can mitigate that cost.
Stress and Strain
During college, you may be working a job and staying on top of your studies while building a varied social life. This can lead to a lot of late nights and jam-packed schedules. Overloaded calendars bring heavy doses of stress, which takes a toll on your health. When you’re stretched thin, your immune system may not be as robust as usual. Stress can also affect your mental health and leave you feeling anxious, irritable or even depressed.
For many college students, the effects of stress become most apparent during finals week. End-of-semester exams require your full attention. If you aren’t well leading up to finals, it’s important that you seek care as soon as possible. Having health insurance while in school gives you access to the help that you need.
Close Quarters, Shared Germs
Whether you live in a dorm or share an apartment with roommates, college is usually a time when you have multiple people occupying a relatively small space. With living arrangements like that, it’s quite easy to pass germs from one person to the next. Especially when flu season hits, don’t be surprised if you and your roommates share one bug after another.
With some sicknesses, a few days of rest and recuperation are all that it takes to get you back on your feet. Other illnesses, however, require a trip to the doctor or even some emergency care. Having health insurance is important so you won’t be tempted to put off important treatment that will help you get back to your usual self.
Insurance Options for Every Student
Every college student needs to have health insurance, but the same type of health insurance isn’t necessarily the right fit for every student. Understanding your options can help you decide which type best meets your insurance needs during your college years. After weighing the pros and cons, you might opt for some sort of major medical coverage or choose to enroll in temporary health insurance while in school.
Student Health Plan
Some universities have their own student health insurance plans that are available for those who are enrolled in classes. These major medical plans typically cover care at on-campus clinics and may also include local doctors or hospitals but may not have an extensive network beyond the geographic area of the school.
Premiums for student health insurance are often charged on a school bill along with tuition and room costs. You may be able to use your student loan money to help pay for this expense. The costs of these plans can vary considerably depending on the school, so shop around before settling on your school-based health plan.
Some students can stay on their family’s health insurance plan while away at school. Federal law requires that all plans that meet the standards of the Affordable Care Act allow young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26. Even if students aren’t living at home during college, this rule still applies.
However, some major medical plans have limited provider networks. If you attend school far away from where your parents live, you may not have the option to receive in-network care without first traveling back home. That’s an inconvenient option for busy students, especially when sick or hurt.
Individual and Marketplace Plans
Because you’re an adult now, you might want to obtain your own health insurance plan instead of staying on your parents’ policy. You can shop for an individual health plan through the federal marketplace or your state’s insurance exchange, via an independent broker or insurance agent, or directly through an insurance carrier. These are major medical plans and must meet the ACA’s standards for minimum essential coverage. You can only buy major medical policies during open enrollment, which runs from November 1 to December 15.
If you buy a marketplace plan, you may qualify for subsidies that will help you make the premiums work for your student budget. However, if your parents still claim you as a dependent on their taxes, their income rather than your own will determine the amount of subsidy money for which you qualify. If they make too much money, you may not be able to get any subsidies, or the amount for which you qualify might be quite limited. This can greatly impact the affordability of an individual health insurance plan.
Short Term Health Insurance
Limited-duration health insurance plans are issued for a set period of time. An upcoming change in federal law will allow you to hold a temporary health plan for up to just under a year, except where limited by state law. This will allow you to get a short term health insurance plan that you can keep until the start of the next school year.
One advantage to having short term health insurance during school is that you’re not typically restricted to a specific provider network. Whether you’re at school, at home or traveling around the country, you’ll be able to seek treatment for illnesses or injuries that crop up unexpectedly.
These plans are not ACA-regulated plans, so they often cover a somewhat different set of benefits than major medical plans. If the covered benefits suit your particular health needs, short term health insurance can save you a good deal of money on premiums. The average monthly premium for a temporary health plan is only about $100 a month.
At some point during your college years, you’re probably going to end up sick or hurt. Having health insurance while in school will give you the peace of mind that you’ll be able to pay for your care. When shopping for health plans, pay attention to their networks and premiums to decide which kind of insurance is right for you. Low premiums and no network restrictions may lead you to decide that your best bet is a short term health insurance plan.