Affordable Student Health Insurance

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You're in school and you have no health insurance. You’re also in good company. About.com reports that 18-24 year-olds represent the largest growing population of uninsured individuals. Where can they find affordable health insurance for students? Is it even possible?


The question strikes close to home. I spent my entire nine years of college uninsured. I never got really sick, but I gambled with my health. Sometimes I didn’t go the doctor as much as I should have. In the back of my mind I worried about getting a fatal disease like cancer. I imagined dying in bed, apologizing to my mother for being too poor to buy health insurance.

 

Health Insurance for Students


Most 'experts' recommend students stay on their parents’ policy. It’s great advice when it works. My guess is you’ve already tried this option. Or you’re eligibility has expired, or a million other reasons why your parents’ policy doesn’t work for you. At some point we all reach the same place.


Here’s my list of recommendation for finding best student health insurance.


THE COLLEGE HEALTH PLAN


Bigger schools are great when they have a student health center. The school guarantees access by a mandatory health fee tacked on to your bill each semester. At the University of Southern California, this was the best money I ever spent. I made appointments anytime I wanted, however silly my health concern. I once complained to the doctor that my throat hurt every day, always after eating tobacco sauce. He suggested I stop eating hot sauce every day. Modern medicine awes me.


Student health plans are great for common office visits, but they don't substitute for comprehensive policies and they usually don't cover dental. If you need any surgery or a hospital stay, good luck paying for it. The good news is many schools offer extended insurance coverage. A growing trend finds some schools even requiring all students obtain supplemental coverage. Check with your school for details. Some offer great, affordable plans. Others don’t measure up. Often it’s cheaper and more flexible to find your own private insurance.


THE INDIVIDUAL PLAN


Buying insurance on the open market seems a little scary, but it’s often the easiest and cheapest option for student health coverage. Private companies like eHealthInsurance have gotten good at connecting people with affordable student health policies.


Student without health insurance
Catastrophic insurance is always the least expensive option. The question is – how much risk are you willing to take? The deduction for catastrophic plans usually starts around $2500 and range upwards to around $20,000. I punched some numbers into an online calculator and found policies as low as $37 a month, up to three million dollars in coverage. Granted, the deductible was $5000 a year and office visits weren’t covered, but for $37 you know I you're going to get treated if anything happens.


Generally, the less your deductible the more you will pay each month. A ten thousand dollar deductible could put a college student in debt for years. But by paying more each month, say $100, you can get close to decent coverage that allows you to see a doctor when you need to. It’s terrible to not go snowboarding because you’re scared of breaking your leg.


OTHER ALTERNATIVES

 

These other alternatives to cheap health insurance may work for some people, but not everybody, in finding coverage.


A. Get a job. But if you had a great job with benefits you wouldn’t be here.


B. State and Federal programs. If you’re poor – really poor – and not claimed as a dependant on anyone’s taxes, you may qualify for government programs. While unemployed in Los Angeles, I qualified for free medical care near Beverly Hills. They treated me great and I never saw a bill. Government programs set strict guidelines. Check with your local social services office.


C. Stay on your parents’ coverage. I already mentioned this, but any states have laws extending how long a student can stay on a parent’s plan. Worth checking out.


D. Cobra. This government program helps people who’ve lost their insurance, including students who’ve lost their coverage from their parents. Cobra can be expensive, and is meant only a temporary measure.


E. Become a Canadian citizen. Yes, it works. But you actually have to move to Canada. Warning: they don’t accept just anyone.

 

 

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