Getting your own health-care coverage
Why you need health-care coverage
Reasons to have health-care insurance while attending college include:
- You will be studying in close proximity to thousands of other people. Any of them can pick up a contagious virus and pass it along to you.
- Large medical bills are one of the primary reasons people file for personal bankruptcy. Even “minor” surgeries can cost thousands of dollars.
- Without health insurance, you will usually have to prove you can pay for medical care before receiving treatment, except in emergencies.
- Delaying medical or dental treatment can lead to more serious, and costly, health problems.
Comprehensive health-care plans include coverage for medical, dental, vision, mental health, and pharmacy services.
Three basic alternatives for students are:
- Coverage under a parent’s plan: Family health-care plans must cover children up to 26 years old. You do not have to live with your parents, or be their dependent to receive the coverage. But, be sure to make sure that their insurance has options for doctors and hospitals around your school.
- University-sponsored plans: Prices and benefits for university-sponsored health-care plans vary from school to school. A university plan may be a good option if the care provider associated with your family plan does not extend to your college location. To find out more, call your campus health clinic or the administrative office devoted to university-sponsored health plans.
- Individual plans: This is coverage that a person buys independently. You can purchase individual health insurance through an agent or online. The National Association of Health Underwriters' website has an agent locator http://www.nahu.org/consumer/findagent.cfm. Or you can search on your own at
Finding affordable options
The amount you pay each year for health-care coverage is called your health insurance premium. Premiums are affected not just by your age, but also by the components of your policy. To keep premiums low, consider the following:
- Higher deductibles: A deductible is the amount that you must pay out of your pocket each year before your policy kicks in. Deductibles typically range from $500 to $5,000 per year. Higher deductibles usually mean lower premiums.
- Higher co-payments: A co-payment is an amount that you pay toward medical care. Co-payments are made in addition to the deductible on your policy. With higher co-payments, you may pay more at the time of a doctor's visit or hospital stay. However, your premiums overall will be lower.
- Higher total out-of-pocket maximums: Your out-of-pocket maximum is the total amount that you must pay toward your health care under your plan. Most plans cap off your out-of-pocket costs at a certain amount. In general, the more you pay yourself toward medical costs, the lower your annual premium.
Visit www.HealthInsurance.org to learn more about health-care savings tips, insurance information by state, and insurance terminology.