Learn About Health Insurance Options for College Students

With so many health insurance plans available to choose from, selecting the best plan for you and your family is not always easy, especially if you or one of your dependents is attending a college or university for the first time. However, several types of health insurance for college students are available to choose from, and many of them are easy to qualify for. If you are a parent and receive medical coverage through your employer, for instance, you may be able to add a college student to your policy if your child is younger than 26 years of age.

Other types of insurance coverage for students are available through Medicaid and the Federal Health Insurance Marketplace, while some colleges and universities may even offer an insurance policy of their own. To learn more about each of these options, review the sections below.  

How to Get Health Insurance Coverage Under Your Parent’s Plan

If your parent’s health insurance plan can cover you as a dependent while you attend college, your parent may agree to add you to his or her marketplace or employer-sponsored insurance policy until you turn 26 years of age. Once you become of age, however, you must obtain your own insurance policy through the Health Insurance Marketplace or an employer.

In order for your parent to add you to his or her insurance plan, you will need to wait until the plan’s next open enrollment or special enrollment period. If you have lost your student health insurance coverage, you may qualify for a special enrollment period. If you voluntarily dropped your student plan, however, you will not qualify for this special enrollment period.

Once your parent adds you to his or her policy, you can typically continue your medical coverage until you turn 26 years of age, even if you get married, have a child or leave school. In most cases, you can stay on a parent’s medical insurance plan even if your parent does not claim you as a dependent on his or her taxes.

Learn About Student Health Insurance Plans

Some colleges offer health insurance for students as a convenient alternative to purchasing a plan through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace. These types of plans typically only provide you with basic medical coverages, but they can be an affordable option as you attend college and work toward your degree. Additionally, you can use the coverage to obtain care from the university’s onsite health center, which may include mental health therapy sessions. While policies vary by school, you may even be able to add the cost of your student-sponsored insurance premiums to your college tuition bill.  

Moreover, some colleges and universities will require you to enroll in the school’s student-sponsored plan if you do not have your own medical coverage through a parent or the Health Insurance Marketplace. Some schools may even enroll you automatically. If you do not need the student medical insurance plan, however, you will typically need to submit a waiver and proof of your comparable health insurance coverage.

If health insurance options are available through your school, take the time to weigh the pros and cons of enrolling in a school-sponsored plan versus staying on your parent’s policy if the option is available to you. Staying on your parent’s plan is typically going to provide you with more medical benefits and fewer out-of-pocket expenses, especially if your parent receives coverage through an employer-sponsored plan.

Learn About Marketplace Health Insurance Plans

Other types of medical insurance for college students are available through the marketplace, even if you are older than 26 years of age, cannot join a parent’s plan or your school does not offer its own insurance policy. In some cases, a marketplace plan may be a better option for you, even if your college or university does offer a school-sponsored policy.

If you choose to purchase a plan through the marketplace, you may apply for coverage on your own or with your parents. However, specific requirements vary depending on several factors. These factors include:

  • Whether you are older or younger than 26 years of age.
  • Whether you live in the same state as your parents.

To obtain health insurance coverage while living in the same state as your parent, your parent may choose to add you to his or her health insurance application if you are younger than 26 years of age. Your parent may include you on his or her medical insurance coverage application after you turn 26 years of age, but you may need to enroll in a separate plan.

If you are attending college outside of the state in which your parent lives, several other options are available to you. These include:

  • Staying on your parent’s health insurance plan until you turn 26 years of age.
  • Applying for a marketplace plan with your parent.
  • Applying for your own marketplace plan in the state where you attend school.

Moreover, several additional rules pertain to you if your parents do not claim you as a dependent on their taxes. In situations such as these, you should apply for your own medical insurance plan, regardless of whether you and your parents reside in the same state or household.

If you are younger than 21 years of age and reside with your parents, you may need to include their financial information on your Marketplace insurance application. However, you should still apply on your own if your parents are not claiming you as a dependent.

Find Out About Medicaid Health Insurance Coverage

You may qualify for student health insurance through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) if you meet certain eligibility requirements. To qualify for Medicaid as a college student, you must meet at least one or more of the following conditions:

  • You come from a low-income household
  • You are pregnant
  • You receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • You are disabled or blind

If you do not meet the above requirements, you may qualify for affordable medical coverage through CHIP. In some cases, you may qualify for CHIP if you or your family’s household income exceeds the financial restrictions for the Medicaid program.

To find out whether you qualify for a health insurance plan through Medicaid, simply complete an application through the Health Insurance Marketplace. After doing so, you will find out whether you qualify for free or- low-cost medical coverage through Medicaid or CHIP.