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Health insurance for college students

Janelle Vreeland

How to approach health insurance for college students

The majority of people in the U.S. have health insurance through an employer-sponsored plan. Others are covered by a public, government plan such as Medicare or through an individually-purchased, private plan. According to, a report from the Government Accounting Office showed that about 1.7 million traditional age college students are uninsured and nearly two-thirds of young adults cannot afford treatment.

While in college, it’s important to research what type of health insurance works best for you so you don’t fall into those grim statistics. Don’t pay a fee for a university plan just because it appears on your bill. Here’s what you need to know:

College students who are insured often opt for coverage through their university’s health insurance plan. According to Carole Balli, student services insurance supervisor at Northern Illinois University, approximately 39 percent of college students are covered under their parents’ health insurance plans, 58 percent are covered by school insurance and three percent are covered by other, private insurance.

“Student healthcare plans are equally as good as your parents’ insurance plans, if you can be covered under the latter. In either case, you need to understand the policy. Students need to be aware of what the actual cost of the policy is, keeping in mind the deductibles and co-pays,” said Balli.

“There are several misconceptions regarding student healthcare,” she added, namely that you must have student insurance in order to use Health Services, that student insurance only works on campus and that student insurance is not real insurance. None is true.”

Students covered under their parents’ insurance need to be aware that you will only be covered until the age of 26. At that point, you will need to switch to an independent plan or go under your employer’s plan. Many newly graduated students not covered under their parents’ plans, or young adults who aren’t employed with a company, choose to be covered under a short-term medical health insurance policy.  For healthy individuals, these plans kick in fast and can provide coverage relief for short periods such as six months.

However, these short-term policies won’t necessarily cover routine office visits or pre-existing conditions. In general, make sure to read and understand the exclusions on any policy so you won’t find yourself saddled with an unexpected, and hefty, medical bill that you can’t afford. estimated that over the last six years, 137,000 Americans died because they didn’t have health insurance. You never know when you could become sick, so keep yourself insured. However, be a smart customer. Understand your policy and always read the fine print.

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