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The Cost of College : Student Health Insurance Tips

Health insurance is just one of those things that everyone should have. College students, of all people, should definitely have some sort of health insurance coverage to provide a financial cushion for any medical ailments that fall upon them during their time away at school. The question is, what are their options in regard to health care and what is the associated expense?

From what I can tell, college students have three options that they can choose from in order to get appropriate health care coverage:

  1. Stay on Your Parent’s Plan: If your parent has medical coverage and it is beneficial from a cost and coverage standpoint, you should just stay on their plan. Starting this year qualified dependents are eligible to receive coverage under their parent’s plan until the age of 26. …just as an FYI.. this is not a green light for students to take 7 years to finish their undergraduate degree! 😉
  2. Enroll in the School’s Health Insurance: Colleges want all of the students on their campuses to have some sort of medical coverage. In order to achieve this, they have usually partnered up with an insurance provider to come up with an optional medical coverage plan just for students.  I refer to it as optional but most schools will charge you the fee upfront and enroll you in the plan unless you opt-out of the insurance, submit a waiver (electronic or paper), and show proof of alternate coverage. I have seen the annual fees vary on student health insurance from anywhere as low as $190 to as high as $1800.  A report from the U.S. Govt Accountability Office (GAO) states that $850 is about the average fee charged by colleges in the nation. If you decide to use the school’s program you just need to be mindful of the coverage and know if there are any limits that are imposed. The cost of these college health insurance programs are fairly cheap but as you can imagine, you get what you pay for, so the coverage may also have it’s short-comings.
  3. Get an Individual Health Insurance Policy: Just about every medical insurance provider in the country has some sort of individual insurance plan that they provide to the public. Some of these programs are even geared (priced) for the typical college student. The GAO estimates that the average premium for this type of program is going to be approximately $1400 a year.  As you can see, it may be costlier than the college program but chances are the coverage will be better.

Based upon the information above, I would recommend the following student health insurance tips:

  • Pick a Plan That Satisfies Your Medical Needs – If you are prone to needing medical care, a more comprehensive plan is the right choice for you. It may cost more up front but it will save you money over time.
  • Your Parent’s Employer Sponsored Plan Should Probably Be Your First Choice – These plans will more than likely be the most comprehensive and the least expensive (when compared to similar options)
  • Don’t Over Insure – If you stay on your parent’s plan, then make sure you opt-out of the college’s health insurance option. No sense in paying for something that you won’t use.
  • Check Out Coverage Limits – If you have to go with the school’s insurance plan or sign up for an individual policy, make sure you are aware of any limitations to the coverage. It is not uncommon for these insurance companies to put a cap on how much they will spend on each illness or injury.
  • Find Out How The Campus Health Center Operates – Most campus based health centers will only accept the insurance provided by the school. All other insurance claims would be your responsibility to submit to your insurance provider. This means you have to pay the fees up front and then seek reimbursement from your insurance company (you can imagine how daunting of a task this can be…).
  • Consult Your Insurance Provider – In order to avoid the headache associated with the tip above, check with your insurance provider to find in-network doctors that are close in proximity to the school. They could prove to be a better option than the campus health center.

I hope our readers at CheapScholar.org find this information helpful.  As you can imagine, college expenses don’t stop with just tuition, room, and board. You have to make sure you are leveraging your options to limit your exposure to all fees associated with your college education.. that includes Student Health Insurance…

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