Off to College – Who is REALLY Paying For Your Child’s Healthcare?

By | May 21, 2023

You are sending your child off to college, but is he/she still covered under your health insurance? Many colleges/universities require health insurance coverage as a condition of enrollment. Most colleges/universities own student health plans that they provide to their students at a minimal cost to access doctors and hospitals near the school. However, if your child is attending college far away from home, and there is a lack of healthcare facilities at the school or close to the school, you may want to be sure they are still covered under your plan.

An example of this is if you and your child are currently covered by an HMO, and your child is going away to college in another state or region. You should check to make sure your child can access HMO providers in your network in the area your child is attending college. For example, if you are covered by an HMO in Maryland, and your child is going to college in California, your child may not be able to find a doctor or hospital in California that will accept the HMO’s coverage.

In addition, if your child is currently covered under your health policy as a dependent, check with the plan to be certain he/she can remain on the plan as a full-time student. Be sure to check with your policy how they define a “full-time student.” Some insurers define it as an undergraduate with no less than nine credit hours, and other define it as no less than twelve. Other insurers have age limits – for example, with some plans, dependents over the age of 22 get booted off the plan, and others set the limit at 30 regardless of their student status.
Keep in mind, in order to get those “student health discounts” or even qualify for “continued coverage” under a parents’ health plan, some restrictions may apply. Here are some things you should check:

  • Effective dates: most policies go into effect after you are a student for at least a period of 31 days and you can apply as soon as you enroll as an “eligible student” in the college.
  • Exchange Student Coverage: if you plan on going abroad this semester or any other, be sure your child has is still covered under your policy or you may have to purchase an extended policy. Most policies cover this provided they are still considered an “eligible student” by definition of the policy.
  • Extent of coverage: Are hospital fees, emergency room visits and medical tests covered? Do you prefer paying for the “smaller medical” expenses, or but need coverage for the “larger costs?”
  • Types of services covered: Are eyeglasses covered, dental, or will you have to buy a separate policy?
  • Exclusions and limitations, especially if there are pre-existing conditions Is there a maximum benefit amount?
  • Is there flexibility regarding choice of health-care providers and specialists?
  • What is the deductible and co-payment?

Don’t assume that your child is covered under your insurance. Read the fine print and inquire with your insurance company as to what is covered and what is not. You might find that purchasing supplement insurance is necessary. On the other hand, the school maybe the college/university provides adequate health insurance, in which case, your child does not have to be on your plan. Most college policies provide for payment of premiums on an annual basis or you can opt to pay every six months, or you can opt to keep them on your plan. Take the time to look around for the plan that is best for you and your child.