How students can get health insurance in college
As a college student, you’re probably dedicating most of your time to your classes and studying; therefore, you may not have a full-time job, which is how many people in the U.S. access health insurance.
But what happens if you get sick or get into an accident? You’ll probably need to go to the doctor at some point during college or access other medical care.
It's also important to note that some colleges require enrolled students to have active health insurance. In other words, to be a college student, you might be required to have health insurance.
We know it can be time-consuming to research your options, so here’s a condensed cheat sheet for some ways you may be able to access health insurance in college.
Consider coverage under your parent’s insurance
Dependents under the age of 26 may be able to get coverage under their parent’s active employer-sponsored health insurance plans. Of note, some states may have different age limits that allow dependents to be covered under their parent’s active employer-sponsored health insurance plan past the age of 26.
You may want to sit down with your parents and see if this is viable, as getting on their plan doesn’t mean your health insurance will be free, and it may affect the cost of their premium.
In some cases, getting added to a parent’s health insurance plan if you haven’t already could come at a much lower cost than signing up for one on your own.
It’s important to know that many health insurance plans are state-specific, so if you’re attending an out-of-state school, you may have difficulties finding an in-network doctor within the state you’re attending college. Before you’re added to your parent’s healthcare plan if you decide to go this route, ask them to log in to their health insurance portal to see if physicians in the state where you’ll be attending college are covered as a check to make sure this will work for you.
Consider getting health insurance from your school
Schools often have insurance plans for students. For more information, log in to your student portal and search for health services to see what options may be available, or reach out to your student health center for more information. The costs will likely vary from college to college, and options may be available specifically for low-income students who qualify.
See if you qualify for Medicaid
If you don’t live with your parents and no one claims you as a dependent for tax purposes, then you might qualify for free or low-cost coverage through Medicaid. Qualifications generally depend on your income, whether you live at home, and whether you’re a dependent. Since this is a resource for low-income earners, independent college students not working and attending school full-time may qualify for this program.
If you’re a student with a spouse or children, you might be able to get these family members covered under the Medicaid program even if you have coverage elsewhere.
Consider enrolling in a plan via the Health Insurance Marketplace®
The federal government operates the Health Insurance Marketplace at HealthCare.gov, so you can evaluate these plans and consider enrolling if it seems like a suitable option for you.
Even if you can access health insurance in another way, you may be eligible to access insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace.
Your marketplace options typically depend on whether you’re a dependent under 26, a dependent 26 or over, or if no one claims you as a dependent. Your options may also depend on whether you live with your parents and where you live.
Consider getting private health insurance
Anyone can purchase private health insurance directly through a health insurer. While other options are likely less expensive — particularly for low-income students — this might be something to explore, too.
If you’re a college student who’s not employed or has a low income, there are a few options to look into to get health insurance. Even if your college doesn’t require you to have active health insurance, it’s something to consider so you can be protected in case of any emergency.