In this article, we will be discussing the Best Health Insurance for College Students and how to enroll to enjoy the full benefits. Health insurance is the last thing on your mind while you’re young and in school. However, as a college student, you must have coverage in an emergency to not be stuck with more debt. Young adults have the largest uninsured percentage of any age group; around 30% of young adults do not have health coverage, putting them at risk if they incur medical expenditures. The average cost of repairing a broken limb is $7,500, while a three-day hospital stay costs a whopping $30,000. Without health insurance, you’re on your own to pay the full amount.
Why You Need Health Insurance As a College Student
When you’re at college, you have several options for health insurance, including coverage via your parents’ plan or through school-provided insurance. However, if you do not have access to such plans, you can obtain coverage on your own. School insurance payments are often added to your tuition and fees to utilize financial aid to cover your insurance costs. When you have a school-provided plan, you may utilize your coverage at on-campus student health clinics, which is useful when you’re sick.
However, school plans might differ greatly when it comes to coverage options and network networks. You may not be able to personalize your plan, and you may be unable to see your existing healthcare providers if they are not in-network. To preserve your coverage, you may need to maintain full-time student status. You’ll need to acquire alternative insurance if you need to take a vacation from school or decide to drop down to half-time status. Despite their shortcomings, school-provided insurance plans are a viable alternative for students searching for a low-cost option with a simple enrolling procedure.
They eliminate the need to browse around and guarantee coverage while attending school. You pay a monthly payment to a business for health insurance, which is known as your premium. In exchange, the firm agrees to pay a portion of your healthcare expenses, such as medical visits, prescription drugs, or hospital stays. A widespread misconception is that college students do not require health insurance because they are young and typically healthy.
However, one in every six young people has a chronic health issue, and almost half of young adults have difficulty paying their medical expenditures. Obtaining health insurance is an important financial safety. As a college student, you have the following insurance options:
- Insurance under your parents: You can join your parents’ health insurance plan if you are under the age of 26.
- School-offered coverage: Many institutions provide insurance policies to new students.
- Insurance via the Health Insurance Marketplace: On Healthcare.gov, you may enroll in an insurance plan. Depending on your income, you may be eligible for subsidies that make coverage cheaper, or you may be able to purchase a low-cost catastrophic plan.
- Medicaid: You may be qualified for Medicaid, the government insurance program for low-income people, depending on your income and region. You can apply for Medicaid coverage through your state’s Medicaid agency.
- Private plans: You can also choose a private insurance company’s insurance plan. These plans may or may not fulfill the ACA’s regulations, but they can cover serious accidents or illnesses.
School-provided insurance coverage generally ranges in price from $1,500 to $2,500 per year. This is much less than the average annual premium for a non-school coverage individual. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that the average yearly premium for conventional employer-based coverage is $5,969. School-provided insurance plans are our top choice for students searching for ease, cost, and a lack of choices.
To assist you in finding the best insurance plan for your requirements, we gathered a list of health insurance alternatives drawn from and facts verified by reputable sites like Investopedia and Verywell family and assessed them based on plan cost, coverage options, and provider network. These are our top picks for the finest college insurance policies.
NB: Information provided in this article only applies to college students in the US, as you might have deduced from the use of the word “college.” By students, we refer mostly to domestic students though many of these companies cover international students.
Health Insurance Providers for College Students
Because of its coverage options and low cost, Cigna is your best option for health insurance as a college student. Cigna has competitive premiums, and, of course, ACA financial aid is accessible. Cigna plans can be purchased on its website or Healthcare.gov always include pre-existing illnesses, and you may be eligible for subsidies that make insurance much more inexpensive as a college student. As a student, you most likely do not have much money. If this is the case, you may be eligible for premium subsidies, which can make your plan more affordable.
Cigna’s insurance is classified into tiers, ranging from bronze to platinum. Bronze plans are the least expensive, whereas platinum policies offer lower deductibles but higher monthly premiums. Cigna’s plans all provide $0 preventative care so that you can get an annual exam, flu vaccine, and health screenings for free. Cigna also offers low-cost virtual care, which allows you to communicate with a board-certified doctor through phone or video chat. Cigna’s all-inclusive coverage offers more benefits for less money, making it our overall favorite.
While some students may be eligible for Cigna subsidies, not all college students will. Your household’s income determines subsidies. If you are a dependent and your parents earn too much money, you may be ineligible for a subsidy. When you get insurance from Cigna, you may select between HMO plans that require you to stay in the network or PPO plans that provide you greater flexibility. Depending on the plan you choose, you may need to switch healthcare providers. If your existing doctor isn’t in the plan’s HMO, for example, you’ll need to find a new one, or your insurance won’t cover your office visits.
Suppose you have pre-existing health concerns or require medical treatment regularly. In that case, Cigna insurance is the greatest option for coverage since you may qualify for considerable discounts and receive free preventative and low-cost virtual care. It also has an excellent reputation, with AM Best giving it an A (Excellent) grade.
We recommend purchasing catastrophic insurance coverage via Aetna if you’re a low-income student. Aetna’s catastrophic plans provide low-cost coverage for serious emergencies. Aetna’s catastrophic insurance can be a good choice if you’re a college student on a limited budget. Catastrophic insurance policies are available through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace. They feature lower monthly payments than typical insurance policies, making them suitable for low-income students.
Aetna also has a solid reputation in the insurance market. Aetna receives an A (Excellent) rating from AM Best. Aetna’s catastrophic plans provide some preventative treatments, including immunizations and screenings, as well as three primary care physician visits each year at no extra cost. Catastrophic plans can have hefty deductibles—$8,550 in 2021—, but they cover serious situations that might cost thousands of dollars, such as sickness or injuries that necessitate hospitalization. Aetna will resume providing ACA plans in 2022, with the deductible expected to be higher than in 2021.
Unlike other insurance plans purchased via the Health Insurance Marketplace, Catastrophic plans are not eligible for the premium tax credit rebate; therefore, you must pay your monthly premiums entirely on your own.
Aetna’s catastrophic policies are not accessible in all states. You must be under 30 or fulfill the conditions for a hardship exemption to be eligible for a catastrophic plan. If you are a low-income college student who does not qualify for Medicaid or premium subsidies, an Aetna catastrophic plan provides critical coverage at a cheap cost. Once your deductible is met, Aetna will pay 100 percent of most treatments, safeguarding you if you require costly medical care.
Consider Everest Insurance if you need short-term insurance coverage. Everest does not limit you to a certain physician network, and wellness benefits cover preventative care. Short-term insurance coverage might be a cost-effective alternative to standard health insurance for college students. You may receive temporary coverage for less than the cost of a private insurance plan with a short-term policy. Everest provides customizable short-term insurance policies, making it the ideal alternative for short-term coverage.
You may select a deductible of $1,000 to $10,000 and a copay of $40 to $50, allowing you to tailor your premium to fit your budget. You may also set your own coverage limit. Depending on your requirements, you may set a limit ranging from $250,000 to $1.5 million. Everest’s short-term strategies, however, have several problems. They do not cover prescription drugs, eye care, or dental care. Your insurer will not cover your therapies if you have a pre-existing condition. Because of these limitations, Everest’s plans are best suited to college students who are in good health and do not have recurring medical demands.
Everest is not offered in all states; if you live where Everest does not operate, you will need to locate another insurer. AM Best has assigned Everest an A+ (Superior) rating, suggesting that the firm is financially sound and capable of meeting its contractual responsibilities. Because of its deductible, copay, and coinsurance choices, as well as its wellness and mental health features, Everest is Investopedia’s pick for the best short-term insurer for college students.
Pivot is VeryWell Family’s top selection for short-term health insurance for college students since the policies are flexible, do not bind you to a network, and students can arrange healthcare around their schedules thanks to Pivot’s telemedicine services. Furthermore, discount programs offer possibilities to save money. Students’ schedules are frequently demanding and varied. Finding time to visit the doctor isn’t an issue with Pivot because you can utilize their 24-hour telemedicine service or arrange an appointment with any doctor who is convenient for you.
Pivot is their favorite short-term health insurance provider for students due to its flexible and cost-effective coverage. The deductible begins at $1,000. When you visit a doctor or obtain any covered health care services, you must pay a coinsurance of 20% or 30%. Pivot limits the amount you’ll pay out-of-pocket for coinsurance to between $3,000 and $10,000 before the plan’s coverage maximum is reached. The maximum amount of coverage is $1 million, although policy durations and renewability vary by state.
A usual policy period is six months. You can customize your plan with things such as dental and vision coverage. The short waiting period is a key benefit of short-term insurance contracts. With Pivot, coverage can begin as soon as 5 days or 30 days for cancer coverage. Several drawbacks include exclusions for pre-existing diseases, sexually transmitted infections, maternity care, and other services.
Pivot Health was established in 2016. Since then, it has collaborated with the AM Best A+ rated Companion Life Insurance Company to underwrite its short-term insurance policies. These plans are frequently less expensive than regular health insurance coverage, but they are not protected by ACA rules. Pivot insurance is available to residents of Washington, DC, and 24 states who are under the age of 65. You may customize the elements of their policies by using the online quotation system.
Because of its numerous plan options, large maximum limits, and opportunity to choose a low deductible, IMG is Investopedia’s top recommendation for international students. It also provides maternity and mental health care. Obtaining appropriate health insurance as an international student studying in the United States is critical. Medical treatment might be costly if you fall ill or are involved in an accident. IMG provides a variety of insurance products for international students underwritten by the Sirius International Insurance Corporation and may be customized to match your specific needs.
Its plans also include prescription drug coverage, letting you obtain required drugs while in the US. IMG enables you to add other coverage choices and riders to your policy for an extra fee. Add-on coverage insures you against the loss or theft of your luggage, valuables, and personal papers. It also protects you from personal liability. The availability of these extra coverages may vary depending on the kind of insurance, region, and other considerations.
If you add the adventure sports rider to your policy, you will be covered if you participate in any risky sports like bobsledding, parachuting, whitewater kayaking, or windsurfing. Depending on the plan, you may set a maximum limit ranging from $50,000 to $8 million. You should be aware, however, that the J1 and J2 visas need a minimum of $100,000 in coverage. If you have a pre-existing disease, such as a chronic sickness, therapies for that condition are frequently not covered until after a waiting time has passed.
The durations vary depending on the plan; however, they are typically 6-12 months. While IMG is not included in the JD Power Commercial Member Health Plan Study, its parent business has an AM Best grade of A- (Excellent). Because of its personalized insurance plans and high maximum limits, IMG is an ideal coverage choice for international students wishing to study in the United States.
Tokio Marine HCC Medical Insurance Services achieved the top place in VeryWellFamily’s international student insurance rankings because of their numerous low-cost plan options with high maximum limits and cheap deductibles. Adequate health insurance is essential for international students studying in the United States. Students may discover that it is a requirement of their visa or the school, but even if it isn’t, it’s prudent protection against the crippling costs of an accident or sickness.
Tokio Marine offers low-cost, high-benefit plans for visiting students around the United States, making them one of the finest solutions for overseas students. You may add accidental death and crisis response riders to your Tokio Marine policy, and personal liability coverage is provided with some plans. Students up to the age of 65 can pick from four levels of Student Secure coverage. Smart Cover is the most basic plan, providing coverage up to $200,000, and Comprehensive Elite insurance gives coverage up to $5 million.
Policies of any duration are available, as long as the policyholder is a full-time student and insurance coverage begins on the start date you specify. This, however, does not apply to pre-existing conditions. The Smart policy excludes pre-existing conditions, while the Budget Policy has a 12-month waiting period. The Select and Elite choices, on the other hand, cover pre-existing conditions after the insurance has been in effect for six months. There is also an extensive list of exclusions, such as injections, eye surgery, and injuries sustained while under the influence of illegal narcotics.
Tokio Marine HCC, based in Houston, provides health and life insurance in about 180 countries and has an A+ (Superior) financial grade from A.M. Best.
7. Blue Cross
Blue Cross Blue Shield was an obvious choice for our top overall category for students searching for extensive national and international coverage, various coverage options, and low-cost rates. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) provides healthcare coverage to more than 110 million individuals in the United States. BCBSA was VeryWellFamily’s top overall pick because of its student-specific plans, low-cost insurance alternatives, breadth of features, and incentive system.
The BCBSA comprises 35 separate organizations, the majority of which have an AM Best financial strength grade of A. (Excellent). When you enter your ZIP code on the BCBSA website, you will be taken to your local provider. Depending on where you live, you may select from tiers of coverage ranging from catastrophic to completely comprehensive platinum. You may also add dental and vision insurance to your package.
Catastrophic insurance provides lower monthly rates but greater deductibles and out-of-pocket limits. The coverage does not reach its limit. Anyone of any age can join the bronze, silver, and gold plans, but you must be under 30 to enroll in catastrophic coverage. You must wait for an enrollment period to join these Marketplace plans, and coverage will begin on January 1st. There are short-term options available to fill any coverage gaps.
People cannot be denied treatment because of medical issues, although cosmetic and experimental operations and long-term care are prohibited. Because BCBSA collaborates with institutions around the country, students may obtain cheaper coverage choices via their school. Students with modest incomes may potentially be eligible for government subsidies to help them pay for health insurance. BCBSA offers extra advantages to students, such as dentistry, pet insurance, exercise items, and food subscription savings.
College students’ health insurance helps cover the costs of costly doctor’s appointments, medical treatments, prescription medicines, and other expenses. Even if you do not believe you require it, your college may force students to enroll in health insurance coverage. We have identified the finest health insurance for both domestic and international college students. Feel free to forestall those medical costs for the time being.
Can Students Use Their Parents’ Health Insurance While at College?
College students and young people can remain on their parent’s health insurance coverage until they reach the age of 26 under the Affordable Care Act. Even if you are married, live apart from your parents, or are financially independent, you can join or continue your parents’ plan.
Obtaining coverage through your parents’ plan can be advantageous because you can continue to see your current healthcare providers. You may have access to more comprehensive coverage than you would on your own, and adding a family member to an existing policy may be less expensive than obtaining individual coverage.
You can be added to your parents’ insurance during the yearly Open Enrollment period, or if you lose your current healthcare coverage, you may be eligible for Special Enrollment.
When you reach the age of 26, you are no longer eligible for your parents’ insurance and must obtain your own.
How Much Does College Health Insurance Cost?
As a college student, the cost of health insurance is determined by your income, state, and student status.
Low-income kids who qualify for Medicaid, for example, may pay $0 per month for coverage, but school-provided insurance normally costs between $1,500 and $2,500 per year.
If you choose a Health Insurance Marketplace plan, your rates are determined by your tier and deductible. If you meet specific income requirements, you may be eligible for cost-cutting assistance.
Can You Be Denied Coverage for Health Reasons?
If the insurance plan is part of the ACA, you cannot be denied coverage for health grounds. Pre-existing conditions cannot be excluded from insurance under the ACA. Short-term or other insurance that does not come under the ACA, on the other hand, can refuse someone coverage for a variety of health concerns or charge them exorbitant fees. Obesity, pregnancy, an HIV diagnosis, diabetes, and cardiovascular difficulties are examples. Each carrier has the authority to determine the health conditions that exclude someone.
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