Quick Look: Best Health Insurance for College Students
The last thing you want to think about while getting your degree is shelling out extra money for health insurance. But what happens if you need emergency care? Affordable health plans can be a powerful tool for preventative care, lingering health conditions, emergency medical services, support with prescription drugs and a connection to a dedicated healthcare professional.
As a student, you’ll discover there are many health insurance options that won’t break your bank account. If you’re in need of the best student health insurance, use our guide to learn more about the best coverage options for you.
Best Student Health Insurance
Now that you understand the different health insurance policies available for students, you’re ready to start searching for the coverage that best meets your needs. We’ll walk you through the best insurance companies and options available for students like you.
1. School Health Insurance Coverage
If you’re relatively healthy and live on campus, it might make the most sense to enroll in your school’s health insurance. These plans typically provide all basic health services that college students will need at an affordable cost.
Best of all, most universities have onsite physicians you can visit, making it a convenient way to take care of your health. Most colleges also offer different levels of coverage, making it easy for you to select exactly what you need.
If you’re from a low-income family or are not a dependant and make a small wage each year, you should look into Medicaid options. In many cases, if you make under a certain income, your health costs can be fully covered, saving you thousands in premiums each year.
Even if you don’t meet this income requirement, you may still be eligible for low-cost insurance as a student, especially if you live on your own. If you think you can’t afford health insurance, applying for Medicaid might get you good coverage at a low price.
If you want a provider with many options to explore, you should look into Cigna plans on the Marketplace or via its website. Cigna offers many different tiers of basic health coverage, as well as catastrophic or minimal coverage plans. It has a plan suitable for most income levels and allows you to add additional coverages like vision and supplemental insurance.
Cigna is also an affordable option with low copays and plans that have saved individuals an average of $539 each year.
4. Blue Cross Blue Shield
Students have different needs than other individuals and Blue Cross Blue Shield understands this. Since you might need immunizations and shots over quarterly checkups, Blue Cross Blue Shield has teamed with different states and schools to offer its own Blue coverage plans for students.
It offers student-specific plans that vary by state, with low-cost insurance coverage options for students. You can find your state’s plan by visiting their site and selecting your state of residency (or the state that your school is in) to learn more.
If you want a well-rounded health insurance coverage at a low cost, you should research plans through the Marketplace from Humana. Humana not only offers basic health insurance plans, as well as dental and vision add-ons, but it focuses on full-service health.
This includes mental health services, wellness and fitness and a variety of other comprehensive services. If you want health insurance that will provide everything you could possibly need, review your options here.
What is Student Health Insurance?
Student health insurance is simply a health insurance plan that covers students, which can include health plans you purchase through your school.
Health problems tend to become more common with age, so young adults fortunate enough to be in good health may think that paying a monthly premium for coverage they won't use is a waste of money. But having insurance can actually save you money in the long run -- all it takes is one emergency or bout of illness to tack on some medical debt.
There is a variety of health insurance for college students available to choose from, depending on your specific situation. Typically, college students have the following options, which are explained in further detail below:
- Parental coverage: people who are under the age of 26 can get coverage through their parent's healthcare plan if their parent has insurance that covers dependents.
- Marketplace insurance: You can apply for coverage through the Affordable Care Act marketplace -- and if you have a lower income, you may qualify for tax subsidies for more affordable coverage.
- School health insurance plans: Your college, university or institution may offer student healthcare plans, which usually satisfy any legal requirements for health insurance.
- Medicaid or CHIP: You may qualify for Medicaid or CHIP if you live alone or you or your family meet low income standards. CHIP stands for the Children's Health Insurance Program. Check your eligibility on Healthcare.gov.
- Private healthcare: You can purchase coverage directly from a private company.
- Short-term health plans: Depending on the laws in your state, you may be able to get a temporary or short-term health plan. These are often more affordable than standard health insurance -- but be cautious. Many of these plans don't meet minimum ACA standards and have strict rules as well as limited benefits.
- Catastrophic health plans: This is a type of plan only available to people under 30 or someone who is deemed eligible for a hardship or affordability exemption. These plans meet minumum care standards but offer only very basic coverage, often coming with high deductibles and low premiums.
Eligibility Requirements Explained
If you’re a student, you can be covered under one of the following plans:
Your parents’ insurance plan: If you’re under 26, in most cases you’re allowed to stay on your parents’ health insurance plan, which might be the most affordable option. And if you go to school out of state, it’s important to read over your insurance policy to understand how out-of-state coverage options work. In some cases, you might be fully covered, but some plans may have limitations that leave you looking for other options.
If you’re 26, turning 26 or older, you’ll need to look into one of the other 3 student health insurance plans:
A college-provided student health plan: Some schools and universities offer student health insurance plans to help provide you with affordable coverage options. These plans and benefits vary across colleges and often have different tiers you can opt into. Some offer additional policies like dental and vision coverage, others might include only basic healthcare coverage while others can include comprehensive coverage similar to the plan you were on with your parents. It’s a good idea to review your school’s options and compare them to the other options available before making a decision.
No matter the amount of coverage, a student health plan alone allows you to avoid paying the insurance tax penalty.
A marketplace health plan: Another option you have as a student is enrolling in a Marketplace health insurance plan, where you can shop around for the specific coverage and premium that works best for you. You can opt for a comprehensive or essential health insurance plan, which would cover doctor’s appointments, hospital visits, mental health services, pregnancy and sexual health care, prescription coverage and more. You can also find a plan that offers dental and vision benefits if needed.
If you’re looking to save money, you can also look for Catastrophic health plans, which help you pay for an unexpected emergency or hospital trip. These plans often have low monthly premiums and high deductibles, but can save you tens of thousands if you became extremely sick or suffered from an expensive accident. Many catastrophic health care plans also have a number of preventive health visits and doctor’s appointments that are covered each year.
Medicaid or CHIP: If you’re living on your own or your family’s income meets Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) criteria, you may qualify for free or low-cost insurance. Medicaid has no age limit and can cover you if you make it under its income limits. CHIP has an age limit of 19 but is available for students who are not on their parents’ insurance plans and who make under the income limits.
You can learn more about qualifying for Medicaid or CHIP at healthcare.gov.
How Much Does Student Health Insurance Cost?
Student health insurance costs can range depending on the type of plan, amount of coverage, provider and any preexisting conditions you may have.
- On a parental plan: If your parents currently pay for your health insurance and you’ll graduate before turning 26, you likely won’t have to worry about incurring expenses for your health care.
- Medicaid or CHIP: If you meet income criteria for Medicaid or CHIP, you may not have to pay for health insurance at all. If your income is on the high end of the Medicaid or CHIP brackets, you’ll pay a low cost for insurance, which is determined by the state you live in or attend school.
- Student health insurance plan: If you apply for a school health insurance plan, your costs will also vary depending on the level of coverage you select. The American College Health Association estimates that on average, students can expect to pay $1,500–$2,500 per year for school health insurance.
- Marketplace plans: Marketplace plans will also vary greatly depending on your level of coverage, income and more.
How to Get the Cheapest Student Health Insurance
What you’ll need to be aware of when selecting a plan is your budget and whether you’d prefer to pay more per month for a lower deductible plan or pay less for a higher deductible plan.
A low deductible plan with a $500 deductible and $10,000 in coverage, for instance, may cost more each month, but would also only require you to spend $500 in health care charges before meeting your deductible. After your deductible is met, your insurance would cover the remaining $9,500 of your policy, each year.
A high deductible plan with a deductible of $5,000 and $10,000 in coverage would require you to pay less each month, but pay $5,000 in health care charges before your insurance would begin paying for the remaining coverage each year.
How to Enroll in Student Health Insurance
If you’re already enrolled in your parents’ plan, your parents will re-enroll you when they renew their plan each year. If you’re purchasing student health insurance through your school, your college or university will have an online or physical enrollment form you can fill out.
If you’re enrolling for coverage on the marketplace, you typically will apply during your state’s open enrollment period. Typically, this period is between November 1 and mid-December. However, if you’ve recently turned 26, will be turning 26 or have experienced a loss in coverage, you can typically enroll during this life change event.
To learn more, visit healthcare.gov and find out if your life change allows you to enroll outside of the open enrollment period. On its site you can also find out if you qualify for Medicaid or CHIP, selecting your state and answering some income questions.
Stay Healthy While Focusing on Your Education
Student health insurance should offer you peace of mind — it should never feel like a burden. If you’re worried about finding the right coverage at the right price, be sure to research Medicaid and your school’s options before visiting the Marketplace. If you need to find a plan through the Marketplace and aren’t sure where to start, Benzinga can help. Just enter your ZIP code and we’ll match you up with free student health insurance quotes.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long can college students stay on their parent’s health insurance?
College students can remain on their parent’s health insurance until they are 26 years old.
What are the average yearly costs of health insurance for college students?
The annual costs are from $1,500 to $2,500 per year.