Health Care Coverage Options for College Students [2019]

I’m starting college in the fall, and I’m worried about staying covered under my parents’ health insurance plan. Purchasing my own health insurance plan seems expensive, especially because I’m in good health and rarely get sick, but what if something happens? Is buying health insurance necessary for college students? How can I make sure I’m covered while in school without breaking the bank?

Many young and healthy college students view an investment in health insurance as too expensive or not worth the trouble. However, buying health insurance coverage is a simple process, with many college students qualifying for savings or coverage under a family plan. Additionally, health insurance provides protection and quality care in the case of a medical emergency, allowing students to avoid out-of-pocket costs. Here are the best health care coverage options for college students in 2019.

Check your parents’ coverage.

Under most parents’ employer-based health insurance plans, college students can maintain coverage until turning 26. Parents must list children as a beneficiary under their plan during open enrollment or a special enrollment period. For more details on enrollment, parents should contact their employer.

Most parents’ employer-based insurance plans provide coverage for children until the age of 26. According to, children can maintain coverage under a parent’s plan even if they are married, have children, leave school, or move out of their parent’s house. For more information about coverage, research state-specific coverage laws and read the terms of your parent’s plan.

When a parent buys a health insurance plan through the health insurance marketplace, they can include their children as beneficiaries on their application. According to the Internal Revenue Service, parents can add children to an existing marketplace plan during the open enrollment period. Eligible taxpayers can also add children to their plan during the special enrollment period.

Look into student health plans.

When coverage under a family plan is not an option, many students purchase student health plans. According to estimates by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, “as many as 3 million students are covered student health plans offered by colleges, universities, or other institutions of higher education.”

When purchasing a student health plan, college students should keep in mind that not all student health plans offer the same coverage. While some plans provide comprehensive coverage, others provide limited coverage, placing families at risk for costly medical bills. Some student health plans also offer dental and vision coverage for an added fee. Although coverage may seem costly, student health plans are typically covered by student aid.

Depending on how and where they are offered, student health plans may be treated differently. Varying regulations for student health plans have created challenges among students and families when it comes to understanding student coverage and benefits. 

Consequently, the Department of Health and Human Services has issued regulations to protect students enrolled in student health plans. Under the proposed regulations, students benefit from consumer protections under the Affordable Care Act. Student health plans are also defined as “individual health insurance coverage.”

Purchase your own coverage.

Depending on your financial situation and health status, buying your own insurance plan may be the best option. Some college students are eligible for health insurance plan savings based on their income. For students claimed as tax dependents, purchasing through the health insurance marketplace is an option. However, tax dependents do not qualify for income-based savings.

For students under 30 and in good health, purchasing a “catastrophic” health plan can protect against worst-case scenarios. Catastrophic health insurance plans allow students to pay low monthly premiums and enjoy high deductibles. For many college students, investing in a catastrophic health plan is an affordable way to maintain protection when a serious injury or sickness occurs. However, under catastrophic health plans, college students are responsible for paying routine medical expenses.

If you’re not sure where to start, check out companies that offer affordable healthcare insurance for college students. Agile Health Insurance offers short-term and long-term insurance, as well as pricing comparisons, to facilitate the process of buying health insurance for college students.

When selecting a health insurance plan, college students should consider their total costs of care. Because obtaining medical care requires paying out-of-pocket costs, including a deductible, students should consider both kinds of costs when choosing a health insurance plan. Additionally, with respect to choosing a doctor or health care facility, some plans and network types are more restrictive and will charge more for providers outside of their network.

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