When it comes to health insurance for college students and recent graduates, there are plenty of options, each with plan costs and benefits that you can select based on your unique situation and needs.
On this page, you’ll find information and links to articles that explain the types of coverage available, and explain how you can choose insurance options that best fit your budget and healthcare needs in this new phase of your life.
Deciding on the best health insurance for college students
Ask yourself these questions to determine what type of coverage you’ll need and the best way to get health insurance.
Should you stay on your parents' health insurance plan?
You’ve got an option to remain on your parents’ health plan until you turn 26, but it’s important to note that the plan’s network might not include hospitals and doctors in the area where you’re going to school, and might not provide maternity coverage for dependents.
It’s also important to understand that the health plan will likely send the explanation of benefits (EOB) to your parents if you receive medical care as a dependent on their plan. If this is a concern for you, a policy obtained in your own name might make you more comfortable.
Read: Should I buy the health plan my college offers? or buy through an ACA exchange?
Will your insurance cover your healthcare providers?
If you move – and don’t live in the same area as your parents – it might make more sense to shop for your own policy rather than staying on their plan, since the provider network for your parents’ plan may be limited in your area.
Will buying your own coverage make your parents' health plan more affordable?
Depending on how your parents’ health plan is structured, taking you off the plan may or may not affect the amount that they pay in premiums. This may depend on whether they buy their own plan or have employer-sponsored coverage (and if so, how the employer’s contributions to the premium are structured) and on whether they have other children who will remain on the plan.
Is the health insurance offered by my school good coverage?
If my college offers coverage, can I buy ACA-compliant health insurance?
Health coverage after your college graduation
If you were insured through your college or university, you will likely no longer be eligible for its coverage after you graduate. Be sure to plan ahead and make sure you don’t have a gap in coverage:
Stay on your parents' insurance
Buy an individual plan through the ACA marketplace
For grads who want a more robust, ACA-compliant plan that covers the essential health benefits and pre-existing conditions, a plan purchased through the state health insurance exchange is likely to be an ideal solution.
ACA-compliant plans for individuals are available in every state and premium subsidies and cost-sharing reductions are available through the marketplace to make coverage and care more affordable.
Check your eligibility for ACA premium subsidies.
Purchase a short-term health plan
College grads who need temporary coverage until another policy kicks in may consider short-term health insurance. Even grads who have a job lined up may face a waiting period before employer-sponsored health insurance coverage is available.
Note that each state has its own rules and regulations regarding short-term health insurance.
Check availability of short-term plans in your state.
Enroll in Medicaid
In 38 states, Medicaid has been expanded to cover all adults with income up to 138% of the federal poverty level.
For a new graduate living in a state where Medicaid has been expanded, Medicaid could be a perfect solution while job hunting. Medicaid enrollment is available year-round, and Medicaid covers pre-existing conditions. In most cases, there are no premiums.
See whether your state has implemented Medicaid expansion.
Get coverage through a new employer
Getting health insurance through an employer-sponsored plan is a coverage option many college grads envision, and it’s an excellent option if available. Employer-sponsored health insurance generally offers substantial benefits, and employers typically pay a large portion of the premiums.
But while obtaining employer-sponsored health insurance may be the goal, it might not necessarily materialize soon after graduation, or even in the near future. Thanks to the ACA, it’s easier than ever for young adults to have health insurance coverage, even if the benefits they assumed they’d receive from employers take longer than expected to materialize.