Student Health Insurance Alternatives

Yes, you’re young and vibrant–a glowing picture of health–and the crippling costs of unexpected medical expenses are the furthest thing from your mind. Health insurance is something you won’t have to worry about for years, right? Wrong. The truth is that accidents happen, contagious pathogens will cross your path, and a stint in the E.R. could wipe out your bank account.

Health Insurance advice for students

Failing to protect yourself with health insurance is a gamble that you cannot afford to lose. It could not only leave you financially devastated, but it could put an end to your education–squashing your dreams for the future.

So, what options are available to a struggling student like yourself?

1. Stay on Mom or Dad’s Health Insurance Plan

If you are twenty-six years old or younger and are not able to get your own coverage through an employer, you can remain on your parents’ health care plan. This is, by far, the best option, but it is not without its problems. Some plans only provide full coverage in the area in which you live, posing a significant hiccup for out-of-town students. Others state that claimants can only receive treatment from a preferred provider. In this case, you will need to ensure that there is one available in your college town. Before opting to rely on your parents’ coverage, be sure to thoroughly read and understand their policy.

2. Check out Your School’s Health Insurance Plan

A number of colleges and universities offer their students more than just a top-notch education. They also offer affordable health care plans. While you will need to check with your admissions office for information, it is important to find out what type of coverage is offered. If possible, opt for a plan that offers comprehensive coverage that will include diagnostic testing, female reproductive issues, referrals to specialists, and injuries due to accident. And, if you plan ahead, you may be able to include your premiums in your student loan.

3. Apply for Medicaid

Medicaid is a federally and state-funded program that provides health coverage to American citizens under 65 years old who have incomes of less than 133 percent of the national poverty level, are over-burdened by high medical expenses, or are disabled. If you believe that you qualify, check with your state.

4. Shop Private Health Insurance Providers

One option is to buy your own private health insurance policy from an insurance broker. While these premiums do tend to be relatively steep, you may be able to find a provider that offers savings on student health insurance plans. Do read the fine print, however, for information pertaining to exclusions and pre-existing conditions before signing any dotted lines.

5. Take Advantage of Obamacare

Thanks to sweeping health care reforms, many Americans can now purchase health coverage through the online marketplace. If you qualify, you may be able to use tax credits to dramatically reduce your premium rates. Again, do not be blinded by price alone. Ensure that the plan you select offers comprehensive coverage.

6. The Catastrophic Option

Some students may be tempted to purchase “catastrophic” coverage only. While the premium for these types of plans is very affordable, the deductible can be cripplingly high–sometimes exceeding six thousand dollars. One accident resulting in a lengthy hospital stay could result in a bill for several grand before the insurance company has to cough up anything. Perhaps, that’s why they call it “catastrophic.”

So, while you are checking out dorms, looking into fraternities, and buying second-hand textbooks on e-bay, make sure that you also set aside some time to sort out some health care coverage. That’s one decision you won’t live to regret.

What health insurance coverage options would you recommend to students?

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I am a freelance writer, avid blogger, illustrator, and aspiring novelist who thinks the world is a terribly funny place filled with bizarre things to observe--and, of course, comment on. You can follow her somewhat neurotic and OCD ramblings at The Embiggens Project and at Searching for Barry Weiss.

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