Get your child’s health care college ready: Health insurance for college students

College is the first time many kids live outside a parent’s home. How can you help your student manage health care while at college, including health insurance?

Going to college is often the first time a young person lives outside his parents’ or guardians’ home, maybe the first time living in a new place. There’s a lot to do before moving into that dorm room — including making sure that your child understands his or her health insurance and can manage health care matters. What does your family need to do before your student moves away to campus?

Make health insurance choices as soon as possible

You and your child will need to make some decisions about his or her health insurance coverage while away at school, and there are a lot of options to consider. Reviewing the college or university’s requirements, your own health plan, and the health care providers and systems in your child’s college town can help you both make decisions about your child’s coverage.

Many colleges and universities have health insurance requirements, mandatory health fees or other health-related policies for full-time students who live on campus. Some universities market their own health insurance plans, automatically enrolling students in their health plan and adding their premium to the student’s overall fees. Check the bottom line. If you have a health plan that you want your child to remain a part of, you will need to meet the college or university’s policy for waiving the health insurance and proving your child has adequate insurance. You may need to opt out of the school’s health plan every year if you continue to carry your student on your family plan. Carefully read the college or university’s policy surrounding health insurance waivers.

Consider the health care available on and around your child’s campus

Even if your child’s college or university doesn’t require health insurance, there may be a fee attached to a student’s tuition that provides primary care health services through campus-based clinics. Students can receive basic health care such as physicals, mental health services or well-woman visits at no cost or a small copay. However, the services covered under these college or university fees may not include care related to more serious illnesses or injuries, such as hospital stays or surgery.

Norton Children’s Medical Group

Find a Pediatrician Near You

It’s important to review your health plan. Consider speaking with your employer’s benefits department about how students can access care when they’re at college. This is especially important if you have a plan with limited coverage for out-of-network care. You also may want to compare costs, for example, if you remove your child from your plan and place him or her on a college- or university-based plan or other plan. All possible out-of-pocket costs the health plan change would entail, including deductibles, copays, coinsurance, and drug and lab coverage — not just the cost of the premium — need to be considered.

Finally, suggest your child find a primary care provider near campus who is in his or her health plan’s network.

“The transition from pediatric to adult care may be challenging for some,” said Ana Scholtz, M.D., pediatrician with Norton Children’s Medical Group – Springhurst. “The child may be used to mom or dad making their appointments and managing medications. Going away to school presents new responsibilities for these young men and women. Finding a primary care provider in their college town is crucial, especially for children with chronic conditions. It can help them build a relationship with a provider and take charge of their health care.”

Read the first in the “Get your child’s health care college ready” series: Immunizations.