In an attempt to save students from unexpected medical bills, colleges and universities are oftentimes requiring student to carry health insurance. This coverage also helps university medical hospitals to avoid losing money when students can't pay their bills. Recent surveys indicate that between 10 and 30% of students do not have any healthcare insurance.
Many college students continue to be covered under their parent's health insurance plans, and those that are not covered can often purchase health insurance through a program at school. One benefit of purchasing directly through colleges and universities is they offer students the purchasing power of a group plan, which can translate into lower insurance premiums.
More specifically, since the school will be working with a health insurance company to provide coverage, the students will realize a benefit due to the lower administrative costs associated with supplying services to a larger population of participant. This means students can often find much lower insurance rates through their schools compared to an individual health insurance policy.
Most health insurance plans offered to students have eligibility requirements. Schools may require that a student be enrolled at least half time to participate in a school-sponsored plan. In addition, it's becoming more common for schools to require participation in their health insurance programs, or provide proof of insurance. This last statement is particularly true among private colleges and universities. In fact, nearly all private colleges today require attending students to carry health care coverage.
Students with preexisting health or medical conditions are often covered under the school's plan after a waiting period. For example, the school may require participation in the plan for a period of three months before covering medical expenses associated with a preexisting condition.
Schools may also extend the health insurance coverage to a spouse or domestic partner of the student. In addition, a student with children can often obtain coverage for their entire family under their school's health insurance plan.
The cost of student health insurance can vary considerably from school to school. For example, in 2019 and 2020, students at UCLA paid around $2,516 for an entire year's coverage. At Ohio State University, the cost of health insurance is over $3,316 per year.
To keep insurance costs low, most schools provide students with a health maintenance organization, or HMO. This structure requires students to seek the help of doctors and other specialists participating in a network of health care providers.
Schools often attempt to control the costs of insurance further by including lifetime maximum benefits under their programs. Schools are also likely to require students to make copayments and coinsurance payments. This means that the student is financially responsible for a portion of the medical expense beyond the annual or quarterly insurance premiums.
The coverage provided by student health insurance plans are very similar to those offered to employees of large companies. For example, many schools will offer wellness or well care benefits such as immunizations as part of their coverage program. Some schools may also offer dental care in addition to health insurance.
The coverage for a student under these plans is not to be confused with the typical help that is available through a campus health care center. Those centers are usually staffed by nurse practitioners, and can be valuable in helping students deal with limited care medical emergencies.
The student health insurance plans offered by large colleges and universities include coverage for doctor fees, hospital stays, laboratory expenses, X-rays, surgery, and even maternity benefits. Although many students may struggle to make tuition payments, the coverage offered through their school is oftentimes a very good value.
To summarize, a student should carefully weigh the costs and benefits of buying health insurance through their college or university. Although many students are healthy young individuals, with a lower level of need for routine health care, accidents and disease can occur. Students also have enough on their minds and will sleep better knowing they don't have to worry about finding the money to pay for an unexpected medical bill.
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