The Cheapest Health Insurance for College Students

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There is a long list of preparations to make when you first attend college. Between new class schedules, living accommodations, and the cost of tuition, it’s easy for something like health insurance to fall through the cracks. But health insurance is something college students and their families need to consider before they embark on their studies. Failing to secure adequate health insurance can be a big risk you don’t want to take.

Many students and their parents wonder what their options are when it comes to health insurance. While there are plenty of private insurance options available for college-aged adults, many can cost an arm and a leg. A high monthly insurance payment may not be feasible for college students on a fixed income. But that doesn’t mean you should go without it. There are several affordable healthcare options for students to choose from, and these savings may make a huge difference in their budget as they attend college for the first time.

How to choose affordable health insurance

Choosing the right health insurance isn’t always easy. Things like premiums, deductibles, and pre-existing coverage can all be complex issues to navigate, especially if you have no prior knowledge of how insurance works. Researching these terms and familiarizing yourself with the many facets of healthcare insurance can help you make an educated decision about which coverage route is right for you.

There are several factors that account for a good health insurance plan. Here are some things to consider when exploring health insurance options in college:

Pricing

Just like college tuition, health insurance isn’t cheap. If you don’t plan on working your way through college and are on a fixed budget, you may find it difficult to add health insurance to your already long list of expenses. Requesting quotes from several providers will help you determine which plan makes the most sense for your financial situation. Pay close attention to deductibles, which can significantly affect the true cost of your coverage.

Coverage

Just because you have health insurance doesn’t necessarily mean you are in the clear. If you are dealing with a pre-existing condition, for instance, you may find that affordable plan you have your eye on won’t cover many of your medical needs. It’s important to carefully read through the fine print to determine whether or not your insurance plan is really a good option for you based on the amount of coverage you’ll get and what you may actually need. You may be in peak health now, but accidents and unexpected illnesses do happen. This is why it’s best to be prepared.

Network

One important factor to consider when choosing health insurance is where you will be living at the time of coverage. Depending on your provider, you may only be covered for emergency expenses if you are out of state. This is something you should definitely take this into account when shopping for insurance.

The cheapest ways to get health insurance in college

Remember, choosing health insurance is serious business and not something to be taken lightly. If you wait too long, you may face going without coverage altogether. This is the last spot you want to find yourself in when attending school far from home.

Now that you know what to look for when shopping for insurance, you can get started exploring which option is right for you. Here are a few reliable insurance options for college students needing healthcare coverage that doesn’t break the bank.

Parents’ insurance

It’s normal to crave independence when you start college, but there are still some things you may need to rely on your parents for. The best health insurance option for college students is their parents’ insurance plan. Often, students can safely remain on their parents’ insurance plan through the age of 26. This number is even higher in certain states. Eliminating health insurance from your budget as you attend school can be a tremendous help in keeping your expenses low so you can focus on your studies.

But while your parents’ insurance is the best option, that’s not to say this will work for everyone. If you do, however, choose to stay on your parents’ insurance plan, keep in mind that they will be responsible for the additional costs. If they are in a poor financial situation, this may only add to it.

There are other drawbacks to staying on your parents’ insurance plan that go beyond finances. It’s a possibility that coverage may not be extended to students attending college out-of-state. Some providers require that doctor’s visits take place locally, within the hometown of the insured. If you are living hundreds of miles from home, this may not be a feasible option. In this case, it’s a good idea to search elsewhere for health insurance. Luckily, you have other options.

School-sponsored insurance plans

Does your school of choice offer insurance plans for students? Many universities offer school-sponsored plans to ensure students receive medical insurance coverage while they attend. These plans may be funded by your school or by a private insurance company, and they are typically offered for a reasonable cost. If you have taken out loans to pay for your school, you can use these funds to pay for your school-sponsored healthcare coverage.

Several factors may determine eligibility for school-sponsored insurance plans. The number of credits you have, for instance, may play a role. Contact your school’s health department to learn more about health insurance options for students.

Healthcare Marketplace

If a school-sponsored plan isn’t a viable option for your health insurance coverage, you can look to other options, such as those offered by the Affordable Care Act. There are several benefits to insurance plans sponsored by the government. Things like tax credits can really help to lower your monthly rate, which is important for struggling college students and their families.

College students who don’t qualify to remain on their parents’ insurance can choose from nearly a dozen different insurance providers through the Healthcare Marketplace. To fill out your application, you’ll need to answer questions about your income, state you live in, and members of your household. The answers to these questions will determine how much aid you qualify for and what type of rates you will receive. Do remember that open enrollment, the period during which Americans can enroll in healthcare coverage for the following year, isn’t available year-round. You’ll need to plan accordingly if you hope to access coverage through the Healthcare Marketplace.

Medicaid

Many college students aren’t aware that they may qualify for free health insurance. One stipulation of the Affordable Care Act called for an expansion of Medicaid, which is designed to benefit low-income Americans. Those who qualify may receive medical insurance for free or for a low cost. Your income level will determine whether you qualify for Medicaid. While regulations vary by state, you can look to the Medicaid website or explore your options via the government’s Health Insurance Marketplace.

Employer-sponsored insurance

Are you working while going to school? Not all students can juggle both a full-time job and a full-time class schedule, but many of them do. In regard to health insurance, they may be at an advantage. Many employers carry insurance options for their employees and this may be a good option for you. If your company has more than 50 full-time employees, they are required by law to offer employer-sponsored insurance plans.

One benefit of employer-sponsored insurance is pricing. You may be able to secure a much lower rate through your employer than you would get on your own. But keep in mind that not everyone will qualify for this type of insurance. If you are not a full-time employee, for instance, you may not be offered coverage. How many work hours are required to qualify will vary by employer. Your workplace’s Human Resources department is a good place to contact to get more information about how you can sign up for a work-sponsored plan.

Catastrophic plan

Perhaps you are in a financial situation where you simply can’t afford a high monthly insurance payment. In this case, there are catastrophic plans, which are available to people under the age of 30 for a low monthly premium. These plans are useful in that they may be able to help you cover emergency expenses in the event of an unexpected, catastrophic health event. While other things may be covered under these plans, such as preventative care, be aware that plans can vary and may not include the level of coverage you require.

Let’s face it: things happen. Attending college is exciting and opens you up to all kinds of new experiences, but these experiences can also come risk. This is why health insurance is such an important thing to consider when gearing up for college. Carefully evaluating your options for insurance coverage and making decisions based on what you and your family can afford will go a long way in giving you the peace of mind you need to navigate your college years with confidence.

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