If you are planning on going to college soon, and the school you will attend is a public university, that school may have one requirement for all students that you have never even considered: more and more colleges are requiring all students at their school to have health insurance. The reasons the schools offer in making insurance a requirement include those with insurance have a higher retention rate, the cost burdens to local hospitals, and student safety. If you don’t have insurance, what can you do–especially if you think you can’t afford it?
If possible, the best option for any new college student may be to stay on the health insurance plan offered by his parents, although this may not always be possible. Because of the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as of September 2010 dependent children must be allowed to stay on their parents’ health care plan until they are 26, unless they are eligible for their own health insurance through their own employer.
There are problems with this. If the insurance is provided through a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO), full coverage may not be available where the student is attending college. It may only be available where the student’s parent lives. On the other hand, if the insurance is provided through a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO), to get the best rates you may have to go to a doctor that is within a certain network. There may not be such a doctor available in your area near your college. Usually in an emergency situation, however the insurance is required to cover such situations, even if the facility offering treatment is not in the network. You can see why even though staying on your parent’s plan may be the best and cheapest choice for insurance in many cases, it will not work in every case.
In the past there has sometimes been another problem in getting insurance through one’s parents, if he does not already have it.
The article, More State Schools Require Health Insurance for Students, on www.abcnews.go.com, reported that University of Texas student, Kate Simpson’s health insurance lapsed when her mother lost her job. When she developed a sinus infection, and then her heart beat too fast, she was diagnosed with severe hyperthyroid disorder. This was called a pre-existing condition, and she was not allowed to get insurance through her father’s employer. She says she had not taken insurance seriously and that a requirement that insurance providers could not exclude someone from insurance because of a pre-existing condition would have helped her. A new insurance law passed by Congress and signed by President Obama has that requirement.
“When you have it, you take it for granted,” Simpson, said about insurance in the article. “I never realized what a doctor bill cost or what medicine cost. I had amazing insurance where I paid $15 for a prescription, and I never thought twice about it.”
Your own college, which requires students to have health insurance, may offer that insurance. In fact, many universities and colleges do offer a variety of health policies. Some cover major medical needs; others just offer a simple accident policy. The way to find out about such policies is to check with your admissions office. Many experts suggest you have a policy that covers visits to specialists and the student health service, any procedures that are medically necessary, and diagnostic tests.
You may qualify for Medicaid if your family’s income is low. You may also qualify if you have a medical disability, or if your family has many medical expenses. You can determine if you qualify if you check with your state’s insurance department. Under the new health care reform law, all Americans with incomes up to 133% of the poverty level who are under 65 qualify.
If you do not qualify for Medicaid, cannot afford insurance you, and have been denied coverage with a private company, you may be able to qualify for a special health plan in your state. More than 30 states have some kind of a plan. To see if your state has some kind of a high risk pool, check out the website at http://healthinsurance.about.com.
If you can find a community health center near your college, you might receive help. These places provide medical care to those without insurance. What you will pay is based on your income, and the agency uses a sliding scale to determine the amount. To see if there is such a facility in your state, check out the website at http://healthinsurance.about.com.
You have another couple of options in finding health insurance while you are in college, but these might be a little more expensive. If you left a job where health insurance was available, you might be to get insurance through your former employer’s insurance because of a law called COBRA. Such coverage is often expensive, however. You may be able to buy your own insurance through an agent, but that too is often expensive. In 2014 you will be able to purchase insurance through a health insurance exchange in your state.
If your college does require its students to have health insurance, don’t panic. You do have options.
More State Schools Require Health Insurance for Students, by Kiah Collie, abcnew.go.com
Student Health Insurance – Options for Health Coverage, by Michael Bihari, MD, healthinsurance.about.com
States That Have High Risk Pools, no author listed, healthinsurance.about.com
Find a HealthCenter, no author listed, healthinsurance.about.com