5 Things College Students and Graduates Should Know About Health Insurance


 Brett Bakshis

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People in every age group struggle with a lack of health care coverage. But did you know adults ages 18 to 34 are less likely to have insurance than any other age group?

The good news is that college students and recent grads have health insurance choices that may not be available to other adults. Study up on these five facts about getting covered.

1. You may be able to get health insurance through your school.

Most college students get their health insurance through their parents' plan. But if that option isn't available to you, check with your school for healthcare options.

Health insurance plans offered through your college or university have to meet a lot of the same standards as other plans offered through the Marketplace. You can't be denied for having a preexisting condition. Your plan can't impose dollar limits for necessary services. And your coverage can't be dropped if you get sick.

Most college health plans qualify as coverage under the Affordable Care Act. That means you won't be on the hook for a penalty when it's time to pay your taxes.

2. Your parents' health plan will (probably) cover you until age 26.

Odds are you've heard that you can stay on your parents' or guardians' plan up to age 26. That's true—for the most part. Some employer-sponsored health plans don't cover dependents. If that's the case with your parents' insurance, you can't be covered on it. Be sure to discuss your plans for health coverage with your parents or guardian.

3. You don't have to live at home to be on your parents' plan.

Even though you may be considered a "dependent" as far as health insurance goes, you can be as independent from Mom and Dad as you like and still be on their plan. You can be covered even if you're:

  • Financially independent

  • Going to college

  • Living on your own

  • Married

As long as you're younger than 26 and your parents' or guardians' plan supports dependents, you're eligible.
4. You may be able to get a catastrophic-coverage plan.

If you're younger than 30, catastrophic health coverage is an option for you. These plans are usually less expensive month to month. But if you need medical care, you'll have to cover most of the tab—and that can get expensive.

Catastrophic plans do fully cover preventive services like screenings and vaccinations, and they also cover up to three visits with a primary care physician every year. But generally speaking, catastrophic coverage plans protect you in the case of expensive worst-case scenarios like a debilitating illness or major accident.

5. Medicaid could be an option.

It's not uncommon for recent college grads to have trouble finding work. But the recession of the past few years has made the job market tougher than ever. If you find yourself in this situation, you might qualify for Medicaid.

Whether you qualify for Medicaid depends on a few factors, including:

  • Disability

  • Family size

  • Immigration status

  • Income

Some states have expanded their Medicaid programs to make it easier for low-income adults to get coverage. The best way to find out if you qualify for Medicaid is to go online and fill out an application at www.healthcare.gov. The website will let you know if you're eligible. If not, it will give you next steps for getting regular coverage through the Marketplace.

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Medical References

  1. Affordable Care Act and student health insurance—frequently asked questions. American College Health Association. (http://www.acha.org/topics/affordable_care_act/faqs_for_individualcoverageclassification.cfm)
  2. American College Health Association–National College Health Assessment II: Reference Group Executive Summary Spring 2014. American College Health Association. (http://www.acha-ncha.org/docs/ACHA-NCHA-II_ReferenceGroup_ExecutiveSummary_Spring2014.pdf)
  3. National Health Interview Survey Early Release Program—early release of selected estimates based on data from the 2013 National Health Interview Survey. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhis/earlyrelease/earlyrelease201406.pdf)
  4. Catastrophic health insurance plans. Healthcare.gov. (https://www.healthcare.gov/choose-a-plan/catastrophic-plans/)
  5. Find out if you qualify for Medicaid and CHIP. Healthcare.gov. (https://www.healthcare.gov/medicaid-chip/eligibility/)
  6. Preventive health services for adults. Healthcare.gov. (https://www.healthcare.gov/preventive-care-benefits/)
  7. Health coverage for children under 26. Healthcare.gov. (https://www.healthcare.gov/young-adults/children-under-26/)
  8. Health coverage options for college students. Healthcare.gov. (https://www.healthcare.gov/young-adults/college-students/);