We know that loving and caring for children doesn’t stop at school graduation. With the joy and excitement of sending a child off to college comes a new set of parental responsibilities that encompasses everything from financial aid to finding affordable housing. Another consideration is making sure adequate college student health insurance is in place for college-bound children.
As difficult as it may be to think about taking on an additional expense when facing tuition and book fees, making sure a student’s health care is covered is as necessary as registering for classes. College students often look for ways to cut expenses, and sometimes gamble with their health insurance as a way to pinch a few pennies. A recent survey by Commonwealth Fund Task Force revealed that 10 percent of students would opt out of paying for their health insurance if they could. The same study also showed that people ages 19 to 29 are twice as likely to be without health care coverage than children and senior citizens, and the number of uninsured young people in this age bracket has increased from 22 to 30 percent.
Parents need to take the time to check their own health care coverage and look at the policy’s fine print. Most family insurance plans will cover a full-time student under the age of 22, or until college graduation. Read carefully, however: Some plans may not cover dependent children after they reach their 18th or 21st birthday, regardless of student status. If a student changes his or her college enrollment status from full-time to part-time, there is a good chance it will affect insurance coverage from the provider. Understand the requirements of the policy to avoid rude and expensive surprises later.
With a closed-network HMO or PPO, be aware that non-emergency care is provided only within a designated area. Students attending college away from home will need additional insurance to cover expenses such as routine doctor’s visits, x-rays, lab work, and prescriptions. Many colleges offer low-cost supplemental insurance options to help with expenses.
If a child is not covered under the parent’s current health care plan, there are a variety of student health insurance plans available. These student plans vary from state to state, but typically offer coverage to the general student population, including older and/or married students, graduate students, and international students.
On-campus health care clinics offer another affordable health care option for students at reduced rates. The variety of services offered by on-campus clinics is dependent on the size of the campus, with larger universities offering 24-hour, fully staffed, full-service facilities, while smaller colleges may be limited in their scope and be open only part-time. Generally, however, these smaller facilities are well geared toward handling minor emergencies, regular check-ups, and lab tests, and can offer references to off-campus medical doctors and hospitals. College orientation materials should include information about health care services provided.
Ryan Patterson is president of US Insurance Online, based in Austin, TX. He graduated in 2000 from the University of Texas with a combined business and computer science degree, and started US Insurance Online in May of 2005 with fellow entrepreneur Jim Waltrip. Visit http://www.usinsuranceonline.com for help shopping for insurance and for free insurance quotes.