Health insurance may not be at the top of the list of things that you’re thinking about as you send your children off to college, but it should be. Access to care is important whether your child is living with a chronic medical problem like asthma or diabetes, a mental health condition like anxiety, ADHD, or depression, or needs care for an illness or injury while away from home. If there are no doctors, labs, or hospitals that are in your health plan’s network in the area where your child attends school, you could end up with large, unexpected medical bills.
What are the options?
There are three health insurance options you should explore to find out which one provides the coverage your child will need while away at college:
- Keep your child on your current family health insurance plan. The first step is to figure out if there are healthcare providers and facilities that accept your current health insurance near your child’s college or university. You can usually find that information on your insurer’s website or by calling the company’s customer service representatives. You’ll also need to ask if your plan includes out-of-network coverage, in case your child sees a doctor or uses a lab, urgent care facility, or hospital that is not part of your insurance network. For out-of-network coverage, you’ll pay more of the cost of care out of pocket and may be responsible for meeting an out-of-network deductible. Find out if there are pharmacies in the area that accept your insurance as well. If your child regularly takes prescription medication, the costs can add up if they’re filling the prescription at a pharmacy outside your insurance network. If there are no participating pharmacies, ask your insurer if they offer a mail order prescription service.
- Purchase the student insurance plan offered by your child’s college or university. A growing number of colleges and universities require all students to have health insurance. To ensure students are covered, many offer a student health insurance plan that the institution self-insures or offers through an insurance company or broker partner. In fact, many schools automatically enroll all students in these plans and require students to opt-out each year if they can prove they have insurance that provides coverage in the local area. Before choosing the student insurance plan, find out:
- what the premiums are
- what services are covered
- what healthcare providers your child has access to both on campus and in the surrounding area
- what the deductibles and co-pays are
- whether prescriptions are covered
- if the plan is year-round or only 9 months per year
- Have your child enroll in an individual health plan in the region where he or she will be attending college. Depending on what changes the federal government makes to the current ACA insurance marketplace, you may want to explore getting health insurance for your college student through the marketplace plans available in the region where the college is located. As with the student health insurance plan, you’ll want to find out what premiums, co-pays, and deductibles you’ll pay, what network of physicians and hospitals your child will have access to, and what services are covered before making a decision.