Being a college student is one of the most exciting stages of life. It allows a person to escape the structured educational system of high school and move on a school and major that they choose. It is a chance for young adults to grow more independent, escaping the grasp of their parents, living on their own for the first times. That tiny 15 by 15 foot dorm room that you get to share with a complete stranger becomes home, the cafeteria becomes your kitchen and the school library becomes your workplace. But, what about student health insurance?
Many people will tell you that college is the best four years of your life and they may very well be right, but college also comes with a lot of stress, a lot of sleep deprived nights and a exposure to many other malnourished and sick college students. If your roommate catches the flu and spends two full days sitting in your dorm room, the odds are that you will end up catching the same sickness. It is unavoidable. This is why student health insurance exists.
The CT Health Channel explains that in recent years, many colleges have started to require proof of health insurance for all of their students. Colleges accept options that include insurance through family policies and coverage through school-sponsored student health plans, offered by more than 80 percent of public four-year colleges. Students can also seek coverage through their employer if they have the option or they can purchase their own individual health insurance plan from a licensed independent health insurance agent. Some states even offer coverage through a state-sponsored risk pool, providing coverage for individuals denied insurance by private insures because of existing health conditions.
The Federal Register has a breakdown of student health insurance coverage and its requirements under the Public Health Service Act and the Affordable Care Act of 2010. The final ruling defines student health insurance as a type of individual health insurance coverage, specifying that certain Public Health Services requirements are inapplicable to this type of individual health insurance coverage.
The Federal Register’s document states that a issuer, a college association and a student advocacy group noted that, in addition to individual universities, consortia of universities and State board of regents sometimes sponsor student health insurance coverage plans. Some student associations have sponsored health insurance coverage plans.
Under the Affordable Care Act, universities are allowed to partner with a health insurance agent to provide health insurance coverage, but any student association that sponsors health insurance coverage do no fit under the definition proposed by the act. This is because of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which states that student associations are not institutions of higher education. Some student organizations may be exempt from this however.
In general, student health insurance is not intended to provide comprehensive coverage. The final ruling for student health insurance states that student health insurance policies need to be in compliance with the Affordable Care Act, something that many temporary short-term student health insurance polices did not do. Universities wanted to be able to offer short-term health insurance policies with limited duration coverage. The Federal Register decided that while there are reasons for short-term coverage including International students that are here to study for one semester, or U.S. Citizens studying abroad for the summer. The short term limited duration model does not apply to coverage that a student could have through the same health insurance issuer for one or more years during the course of his or her undergraduate education.
What does an average student health insurance policy look like?
The Federal Register can be complicated to understand fully. To simplify matters, let us take a look at a student health insurance policy provided by The University of Southern California. Please not that this is simply an example and it may vary differently from the student health insurance that is offered through your college or university. Please contact your local independent health insurance agent or the school’s health and wellness office to better understand what coverage is offered.
The USC student health insurance comes with the disclaimer that the insurance coverage, offered by Aetna Student Health, may not meet the minimum standards required by the health care reform law for restrictions on annual dollar limits. Annual dollar limits ensure that consumers have sufficient access to medical benefits throughout the annual term of the policy. There is a $500,000 annual dollar limit for student health insurance as of 2012. There is a $750,000 yearly limit on all covered services including Essential Health Benefits.
The USC policy covers all preventative care when students use an in-network provider. Preventative care is anything ranging from physical exams, well-woman exams, and various tests and screenings. This also includes some non-prescription drug contraceptive devices such as I.U.D.s.
This is pretty average for what kind of coverage you can expect from a student health insurance policy. Some student health insurance policies offer comprehensive, but others offer limited benefits, which can leave students with potential high costs if they need more extensive treatment. The Affordable Care Act ensures that students have access to coverage and benefits for preventative services, similar to what the USC student health insurance coverage provides.
Universities want to follow the regulations given to them by the Affordable Care Act, but they also want to save money. Their may be limitations to where you are able to receive treatment or what kind of prescription drugs will be covered. Going back to the USC example, their insurance requires students to use generic drugs when available, unless the doctor has written, “dispensed as written” on the prescription. Generic drugs contain all the same active ingredients, but cost 30 to 80 percent less than the brand name drugs.
Student health plans work much like other forms of health insurance, with services often available at on campus health centers and at off campus hospitals and care centers. The health law requires that students plan meet the standards applied to policies sold by insurers to individuals, including coverage of a set of preventive services without a co-pay and a phased-in bad on annual dollar limits, which older plans used to keep prices down.
Premium costs have risen because of the new coverage requirements, ranging from $400 to $600 dollars. When looking at your institution’s student health options you may want to ask the school if it follows the standards set by the American College Health Association, which recommends that school plans cover preventive services, psychotropic medications, catastrophic situations and other aspects. You independent insurance agent may also be able to look at a student health policy and explain the coverage it provides.
Do you need student health insurance?
NBC News’ article titled young adult insurance quandary: Stay with parents, or go at it alone?, which discusses whether or not it is a good idea for young adults, including students, to leave their parents health insurance coverage to find their own.
One of the earliest provisions of the Affordable Care Act allows young adults to remain on their parents’ health insurance policies until they reach the age of 26.
The article asks the question: Is there any reason not to sign on with the parent’s plan? If young adult is gong to school away from home, there may not be any local providers who are in their insurance network, defeating the while purpose of saving money by staying on your parents’ health insurance policy while in college.
Many young adults may be able to hold off from doctor visits until the time that they come home from school, but this is always a bit of a gamble. Student health insurance polices are going to have offerings locally, allowing students to receive the care they need if and when they may need it.
The short answer to whether or not you need to sign up for your university’s health insurance coverage is no, if you have existing health insurance in place and are able to provide proof of insurance to your university then you do not need the coverage. If you do not have proof of insurance than you will need to contact your local independent health insurance agent to purchase a independent insurance policy or you will need to take the insurance offered by the university you are attending.
College is an exciting time. Chances are you are more excited about picking out a nice futon and television to complete your dorm room than you are worried about a student health insurance policy, but making sure that you have the coverage you need before you step foot on campus is very important. It will allow your to get the preventative care you need to stay as healthy as possible, allowing you to focus on your education and have a little fun while doing so. Your local independent health insurance agent will be able to help sort through any questions you have regarding your college’s health insurance offerings.
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