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Parents, high school grads have summer homework: finding health insurance

healthinsurance.org offers coverage tips as high school graduates head to college

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Minneapolis, MN – It’s high school graduation season — a time for tossing caps in the air and making college packing lists. While grads are busy contemplating dorm room décor and mini-fridges, they might not realize the importance of a more crucial item: health insurance. Today, healthinsurance.org explains why college students shouldn’t wait until they’re on campus to consider their healthcare and choose coverage.

“It’s vital for students to think about their health insurance options and select a plan now, before they get that first sore throat, twist an ankle or need to fill a prescription,” said Louise Norris, a health policy analyst for healthinsurance.org. “Waiting until they’re on campus can lead to a gap in coverage, additional expenses and unnecessary stress.”

Most colleges and universities in the United States require their students to have health insurance. Fortunately, college students have many options for coverage, Norris said. Below are some common insurance choices. Students can explore their choices in more detail with healthinsurance.org’s newly updated online guide, “Health insurance for college students and graduates.”

Stay on a parent’s plan. Young adults are allowed to stay covered by a parent’s health insurance plan until the age of 26. This is a common coverage option for college students, particularly those who stay close to home. However, students who are moving to a different state may find that a parent’s plan doesn’t cover the doctors and pharmacists in their new location. Some students also prefer the privacy of having their own health insurance plan.

Enroll in a college plan. Some colleges and universities offer a student health insurance plan. In many cases, these plans are regulated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and are required to cover specific health benefits. Not all plans marketed to students are ACA-compliant, though, so it’s important to understand the benefits covered by any college plan you’re considering.

Shop on the Marketplace. The Marketplace offers plans that are all ACA-compliant. Students may qualify for income-based subsidies on the Marketplace that help cover a portion – or in some cases all – of the monthly premium costs for their health plan. There are restrictions for when consumers can enroll in a Marketplace plan, though. For example, a person can enroll after they move to a new location, or during the open enrollment period each year, which is Nov. 1 through Jan. 15 in most states.

“Timing is such an important consideration when you’re enrolling in a health insurance plan,” said Norris. “That’s why graduates need to get an early start this summer, so they don’t unintentionally limit their options by missing out on important enrollment deadlines.”

Students who miss their special enrollment window – triggered by a qualifying life event such as a move to a new area – may need to wait until the next open enrollment period, and that can cause a gap in coverage. Plans that are available outside of the Marketplace may not guarantee the same benefits as ACA-compliant plans, and coverage may be limited for people with pre-existing medical conditions.

“With health insurance, it’s always beneficial to be proactive, so now’s the time for graduates to start considering their coverage options,” said Norris. “Remember to consider more than just a plan’s price: coverage details are also important. Even if a plan costs more, it might be worth the expense if it pays for what’s important to you, like specific medications, doctors or specialists, or things like birth control, maternity care and travel.”


Healthinsurance.org provides online resources for consumers about individual and family health insurance. Healthinsurance.org, owned by HealthInsurance.org, LLC, has been providing consumer information about health insurance and health reform for over 25 years.

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