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Health Insurance for College Students: Which Option is Right for You?

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If you’re one of the lucky ones, your childhood colds, cuts, scrapes, and bruises were covered by your parents’ medical insurance. You’d get sick, they’d take you to the doctor and fork over the $20 co-pay, and that was that. Kind of like magic, right?

Well, kid, the days of carefree health care are over for you. Even if you’re still going to be covered by your parents’ health insurance, you’re going to be taking the reigns and controlling the process for the first time in your life. It sounds like it’s time for a crash course in Health Insurance 101.

What is Health Insurance?

Basically, health insurance is any kind of program that helps people manage their medical expenses and protect against financial catastrophe in the case of major medical problems. There are health insurance plans that are overseen by state and federal government agencies, as well as many that are offered by private companies. In the United States, health insurance costs are often crazy-high, but then again, so are medical costs.

Why do you need health insurance? Well, if you’ve ever seen a bill for medical services, you already know the answer to that question. Costs for a simple office visit to take care of a cold or a sore throat can often soar into the hundreds of dollars. If you’re unlucky enough to wind up in an emergency room, watch out – even a two- or three-hour stay at your friendly neighborhood hospital can set you back a few thousand bucks. In fact, financial experts say that medical bills are the number-one cause of bankruptcy in the United States today. Unless you want to add to those statistics, you need health coverage – it’s just as simple as that.

What are Your Health Insurance Options?

So, how are starving college students supposed to foot the bill for health insurance? Well, you have several different types of plans to choose from. Take a look at these options and see which one works best with your situation.

-Your parents’ health insurance. Many health insurance companies allow college students to retain full coverage under their parents’ plan. In some cases, you can stay covered up until the age of 25 as long as you remain in school full-time. However, each plan is different, so you and your parents will have to look carefully at your family’s coverage to make sure you can meet all of the age, residency, and enrollment requirements.

-Your school’s health insurance. Many colleges and universities offer health care plans to their students these days; in fact, some even require that you purchase a school-sponsored plan if you don’t have another type of health care coverage. The downside? These plans can cost a pretty penny, and their coverage often focuses primarily on major medical expenses, rather than day-to-day primary care. Bottom line? Check the details of your school plan carefully before you sign up.

-Government-run plans. In some situations, you may qualify for health care coverage under a federal or state-sponsored health care plan. Many of these programs are dependent on income, and some disqualify full-time students right off the bat. If you can’t afford other types of coverage, ask your school for a referral to a local social services agency to learn more about available low-cost programs.

What’s your medical insurance situation? Do you have any concerns about paying for health care while you’re in college? Let us know in the comments.


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