Insurance & Medical Care When You Go To College

No one wants to think about getting sick or getting hurt. Yet it does happen and we must be prepared for it. Going to the doctor, the dentist, or the local emergency room is all part of life to take care of such concerns. However, when you are away at college, you may not be able to wait until you get back home.

Insurance Coverage through Parents
Many college students will have their insurance coverage through their parents. The law allows a student to remain on their parent’s insurance plan until the age of 24 as long as they are in school and not married. If that is the case, you will need to bring a copy of the insurance information to the school with you. It should be in your student file and you should also have a copy in your living quarters. If your parents have two physical insurance cards they may agree to let you take one with you to college.

Government Insurance Programs
If you qualify for any government insurance programs through the Department of Human Services, they may work when you go to college. However, most of these programs end when an eligible child is 18 unless they are still in high school. Then it will remain in effect until they are 19 or they graduate high school – whichever occurs first. There are exceptions but they have to be looked at on a state by state basis. For example, those who are approved for government insurance programs such as when they receive SSI/SSA. They may be able to keep the coverage as long as they continue to meet other eligibility criteria.

The problem though is sometimes these government insurance programs don’t cover from one state to the next. They seem to be getting better in terms of coverage when it is a college student. Should you have coverage in Colorado for example but you plan to go to college in Texas it may cover you but it may not. You can’t apply for benefits in a state where you aren’t a resident. Even if you plan to be there for 4 years for college, that doesn’t make you a resident. It is a good idea to find out through your state Department of Human services about the coverage that is in place or isn’t in place if you will be going to college out of state. Don’t wait until you need the benefits to discover that information.

College Insurance Programs
If you don’t have any coverage when you enroll in college, there is a very good chance the school is going to require you to purchase it from them. They tend to make it mandatory rather than optional. However, you may get to choose from various offers and pricing. For example, they may have a general program that includes medical and dental care. The cost is going to be more than if you only get what covers emergency services. Carefully read over the terms and conditions for any college insurance program that is offered before you select one.

On Campus Medical/Dental Care
Find out if the college you plan to attend has on campus medical/dental care. Many of them do, but students and parents often overlook finding out about them. They can offer anything from a care package for the flu or a common cold to prescribing antibiotics for health concerns. Typically, there is at least one doctor and one nurse available at all times. They may be an appointment only setting or they may allow for walk ins. It is a good idea to find out if such services are provided on campus and where they are located. Most parents agree they feel much better knowing their child can get medical or dental care right there if they need it.

Should there be a serious issue that can’t be taken care of there; the student may be taken to a local hospital or clinic. For example, if it is possible they broke a bone then they will need to go to a facility that can conduct an X-ray. For serious health concerns they may be escorted to the local emergency room or an ambulance called to transport them.

Finding a Doctor or Dentist
If there isn’t a doctor or dentist on the campus, it is important to find them locally. You can spend some time looking around online and making phone calls. It is important to have a doctor and a dentist locally where you can go if you need to while you are at college. Of course you can continue to see your regular doctor and dentist at home for routine visits. This can include your annual checkup at the doctor and getting your teeth cleaned every 6 months. However, if you think you have strep throat or you have a painful cavity, you need a place locally where you can go.

If you do have any form of insurance coverage, it is also important to find out if the doctor or dentist you select accepts it. Find providers that are considered in your network too. If no such providers can be found, talk to your insurance provider. They may waive this requirement for a college student due to a lack of providers in that area.

Emergency Contact Details
It is important for college students to have up to date emergency contact details readily available. This allows parents or guardians to be contacted should there be any type of medical emergency. The medical information also needs to include information about medications they take and any known allergies.