Everything You Need To Know About Health Insurance In College

Photographed by Francena Ottley.
Getting ready to go away to college is like the Olympics of back-to-school shopping. Between scoring your own laptop and browsing the most perfect shower caddy for your dorm room, there's a lot to be excited about. The more tedious tasks, like registering for classes and figuring out how to pay for your books, however, may not be top of mind.
One adulting step that you may have neglected to check off your list is figuring out your health insurance. If your parents have been handling all your health insurance issues at home, you might be completely clueless about your status — and that's understandable. But college is a time to learn how to figure out how to make choices for yourself.
Even though it seems boring or like a huge hassle, having health insurance is important. (In fact, many schools require that students show proof that they have health insurance when they enroll.) When you live on your own in college, it's up to you to seek out emotional or medical care when you need it. Going to the doctor is not free, and health insurance only gets more confusing as you leave college and enter the workforce. That’s why it’s important to get educated about health insurance at this important juncture in your life. Ahead of back-to-college season, here are three questions you might be trying to figure out about college health insurance:

Do you need student health insurance?

If you're under 26 years old, you can still stay on your parents' health insurance plan — even if you're living on your own or in school. But, keep in mind that if you're going to college out of the state where you live, you might not be able to see doctors and healthcare providers that are covered by your insurance company's network. That's called "out of network," and you might have to pay more for a visit to a doc in this category (unless it's an emergency). On the flip side, if you're not on your parents' plan, many colleges and universities have school-sponsored health insurance plans that you can enroll in while you go to school.

Can you get student health insurance for cheap?

The cost of a student health insurance plan can vary depending upon the state and the school. According to the American College Health Association, the average annual cost of a student health insurance plan can be between $1,500 and $2,500. Often schools will automatically enroll you in their sponsored health insurance plan, and include the cost as part of your tuition. In that case, if you already have health insurance coverage from your parents (or elsewhere) and prefer to stay on it, you'd have to sign a form saying you waive the school-run plan.

How does student health insurance work?

Student health insurance works like regular health insurance: you pay a premium each semester, typically have a deductible to meet, and are responsible for co-pays. On these student plans, you can visit your school's health center or medical school to get covered care. If you're on your student health insurance plan, you also get bills sent to you rather than your parents, which may or may not be something you're comfortable with.
Ultimately, it's important to know that you have options when it comes to health insurance. Some people find that it's not worth it to join the student-offered health insurance plans, while others find the coverage very helpful for their family set-up or specific health needs. Hopefully, you can find a plan or option that helps you feel secure and prepared to head to school and stay healthy all year round.

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