Finding the Best Deal on Student Health Insurance

As a college student, you’re taking on more responsibility. From paying off student loans to organizing your study time, you are getting acclimated to managing every aspect of your life. And for some students, one more responsibility they must look after is their health insurance.
You’re healthy and young, so why do you need health insurance? For starters, as a college student, you will get sick and you are accident-prone. Keep in mind that the number one reason for bankruptcy is unpaid health care bills. And who needs health care bills on top of unpaid student loans?
According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, the college health care system is a jumble of school plans and private insurance. The Government Accountability Office cites that more than half of the nation’s colleges offer school-sponsored plans and on average, 80 percent of college students are covered by private or public health insurance.
There are many health insurance companies that have specially-tailored programs for students or just-graduating students.
Many colleges work with some of the biggest health insurances companies to bring affordable and flexible plans to their students. But, unfortunately, many of these college-sponsored plans fall very short of meeting the minimum requirements for a solid and safe student health insurance plan. They are notorious for having less than average coverage, often with very limited coverage and low benefit ceilings.
United HealthCare and Aetna are the two main health insurance providers to colleges and college students. What plans are offered to you through your school largely depend upon what your school has worked out with the insurance provider. Aetna plans for one school may look very different than another school.
Consider this: According to an article in USA Today, just this past April, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo charged that many school-sponsored plans provide generous profits to insurance companies while putting students at risk. An investigation by Cuomo’s office found that, in addition to low coverage limits, some plans excluded students with pre-existing health problems, or charged them a higher premium. Others failed to cover prescription drugs or placed limits on drug coverage, Cuomo said. And some plans had per-illness caps as low as $700, Cuomo said.
So what do you do?
Your homework.
Before deciding on a plan, ask these questions about the plan you are researching:

  • What is the maximum benefit for the policy?
  • Are prescription drugs covered?
  • Are mental health services covered?
  • What is the loss ratio?
  • Will my plan change if I leave school or study abroad?
  • What happens to my coverage when I graduate?
  • Are there services included in my plan that I can get on-campus at my school’s student health clinic?

If you’re not comfortable with the plan offered through your college, contact the insurance company yourself and see if you can negotiate a better deal.
Or better yet, inquire about your parent’s health insurance plans. For the first time, thanks to the new health care legislation, parents can keep their graduate-student children on their corporate insurance plans or opt for cheaper college plans.
While looking for student health insurance feels frighteningly “adult,” it is a necessary and empowering part of becoming a healthy and responsible citizen.