Not to be a total buzzkill, but medical emergencies can strike at any time – even in college. Fortunately, coverage is available for nearly all student medical situations.
In addition to many other historic changes, the Affordable Care Act created provisions requiring minimal essential coverage for students and young adults. From a risk analysis standpoint, those in this category of adults are generally the healthiest and least costly to cover. However, we all know that college-aged students are not immune from illness, injury or the onset of chronic medical conditions.
With over 22 million scholars enrolled in post-secondary education in the U.S., Obamacare plans are available to insure this demographic from exorbitant medical debt at the start of adult life. These plans are designed to cover not only routine preventative care but many of the other issues that may come about during the college experience. Also, coverage is available for students in special situations, such as those who come to the U.S. to study abroad.
The Affordable Care Act & Student Health Insurance
Prior to the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, many new high school graduates opted to forgo health coverage as they headed off to college. For some students, they were dropped from their parents’ plans upon reaching adulthood. For others, the cost allocation seemed unnecessary and the option of taking a risk seemed more affordable at the time. This dynamic quickly lead to the onset of medical debts for young students, and lawmakers determined it was time for a change.
Under the Act, young adults now had the option to remain on their parents’ plans until they reached the age of 26 – meaning insurance providers could not exclude a young adult from affordable coverage as a dependent simply because he turned 18. Second, the Act created certain mandates for health insurance plans offered by schools and required these plans to cover minimal essential healthcare services.
Coverage Options for Students
Young adults generally have three options when it comes to healthcare coverage during the university years, which include:
1. Remain on Family Plan
Up until that 26th birthday, young adults can remain as a dependent on a parent’s employer-sponsored health plan. Many times, this is the most affordable option for the family and parents’ monthly premium payments continue as usual even once a child turns 18.
If a child remains on the family plan, parents can claim the child as a dependent for tax purposes, however, the student cannot claim “individual student status” while still on a parent’s plan. Upon turning 26, the student would be eligible for COBRA coverage until able to obtain an individual healthcare plan. Students planning to study out-of-state, however, should consult with a benefits advisor to determine if this option will make sense given limitations on out-of-network care.
2. Student Insurance Plans
Student insurance plans are those offered by the enrollee’s college or university and are funded either by the school itself or a third-party insurance provider. Prior to the ACA, these plans were traditionally exceedingly expensive with minimal coverage. Now, student plans are much more comprehensive and offer certain “minimum essential standards of coverage” including:
- Ambulatory (outpatient) services
- Emergency room care
- Hospital admission
- Maternity and newborn care
- Behavioral health (e.g., substance abuse treatment and mental health services)
- Prescription drug coverage
- Services for rehabilitation from an injury or illness
- Lab work
- Preventative services and management of a chronic illness
- Pediatric care for parenting college students
Keep in mind that plans funded exclusively by a college or university need not comply with these minimum standards, however, many plans will include these services to remain competitive. Students should also beware that their school may automatically enroll them in a school-funded plan, and they must intentionally opt out if they wish to purchase a student health insurance policy elsewhere.
3. Open Marketplace
For some college students, purchasing a healthcare plan on the open marketplace is the best option. These Obamacare plans must meet the minimum essential standards of care discussed above, cannot exclude an enrollee for a pre-existing condition, and can be competitive in price. Obamacare plans are available during an open enrollment period of November 1 – December 15, however, a special enrollment period may be an option in certain situations.
Do You Need Student Health Insurance? Yes.
It is not uncommon for students in college to feel as though their money could be put to better use for something far more enlightening than an insurance policy. However, the college experience is not all pep rallies and pomp, as the following conditions tend to affect this population:
- Meningococcal Meningitis: While vaccinations are generally required for all new admittees, living in close quarters within dormitories leads to the spread of this deadly disease.
- Accidents and injuries: Injuries caused by participation in sports are not uncommon in college. Also, statistics reveal that the leading causes of injury for 15-24 year-olds are unintentional injuries and motor vehicle accidents – making comprehensive insurance all the more important.
- Viruses, etc.: Mononucleosis, STI’s, and other viruses can really put a damper on things. Yet another reason why comprehensive student health insurance is a back-to-school essential.
The need for student health insurance is clear – and plans are increasingly affordable and comprehensive for today’s youth.
International students studying abroad in the United States also have options when it comes to healthcare while in school. For those in this category, specially-tailored plans (usually a PPO) are available to cover the costs of healthcare during the period of study, and may also include coverage for health-related emergency evacuation and repatriation.
On the flip side, U.S. students opting to study abroad are also generally eligible for coverage in the foreign nation under an identical student health insurance plan held while in the states.
At Fiorella Insurance, we are pleased to work with new graduates and college-bound young adults to find affordable and comprehensive coverage. Call today!