The Best Health Insurance for College Students 2021
Most colleges and universities require students to have active health coverage during each semester they attend school. Many schools will automatically enroll you in their health plans, but you may be able to opt out if you would like to seek coverage elsewhere, such as through a parent’s plan or marketplace plan.
If you are looking for health coverage, Mira is a great option. For only $45 a month, Mira members get access to low-cost care at any time and facility near you. Mira works as a stand-alone solution or as a supplement to catastrophic coverage to help pay for your weekly health needs.
5 Health Insurance Options For College Students
There are several options to get health coverage as a student. You can get coverage by getting added to your parents’ plan, purchasing your school’s health insurance, buying private health insurance through the marketplace, getting coverage through an employer, or finding an alternative and affordable coverage option that meets your needs and the school’s requirements.
1. Coverage Through Your Parents’ Plan
If you are a dependent and under 26 years old, you may be able to get covered from your parents’ health insurance plan. If you go to school in a different state from where your parents reside, you can still apply to be on their plan; however, in-network providers may be limited depending on the state you live in.
2. Purchase Your School’s Health Insurance
Almost all universities offer their own health insurance plans for students. These plans can either be funded by the school itself or an outside insurance company like Aetna. Some of these plans only offer coverage during the academic year.
3. Buy a Plan Through The Insurance Marketplace
You can also purchase private health insurance through the insurance marketplace. You can qualify to add a private health insurance plan during the annual open enrollment period or a special enrollment period.
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4. Join a Workplace Plan
If you work part-time while you are a student, your employer may be able to add you to their health insurance plan. You may only be eligible for a workplace plan if you work over a certain number of hours per week. If you are interested in this option, you should ask your employer about employer health insurance.
5. Find an Alternative Solution
If none of these options work for you, you may want to find an alternative and individual health coverage option. Many of these plans can be expensive, and some don’t meet the requirements of your university for proper coverage. Before making a decision, you should verify the exact requirements with your school so that you know what to look for. You might be able to get a catastrophic plan through normal health insurance that is affordable and then find a supplement for your day-to-day health needs.
Mira can be a supplement to your health needs in addition to health insurance. With Mira, you get access to low-cost urgent care visits, lab tests, and prescriptions for only $45/month. Unlike health insurance plans, you do not need to meet a deductible with Mira, so you can start getting care as soon as you sign up.
Health Insurance for College Students Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Health insurance is difficult enough to understand, but students have the added complexity of making sure they meet the school’s requirements. The most important thing is to find coverage that meets your university requirements while not breaking your bank. Below we’ll walk through some “in the weeds” questions you may have about the whole process.
Is Health Insurance Required When Going To College?
Many private colleges and even public universities require students to have health insurance. Colleges usually encourage students to purchase their sponsored health insurance, and many will automatically enroll incoming students unless they opt out.
If you cannot enroll on a parents’ plan, school health insurance plans can be cheaper than purchasing an individual plan through the healthcare marketplace and may include more coverage. However, many of these plans might have more care than you need, so you may be able to save money elsewhere.
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How Much is a Student Health Plan Through a Private or Public University?
According to the American College Health Association, the average student health insurance plan costs between $1,500 and $2,500 per year; however, these plans can be much higher. Below we outline the annual costs and deductibles for several student health insurance plans.
Popular University Student Health Insurance Plans
|School||Annual Cost||Deductible||Services Included|
|New York University|
|No deductible||NYU Health|
|$600 for out of network provider||Columbia Aetna page|
|not specified||UnitedHealthcare Rutgers|
|$300 for in-network||UC SHIP|
Some of the more expensive plans, such as Stanford, may include more services. For example, Stanford’s health insurance plan includes dental care with a one-time-only $25 copay. Less expensive NYU offers dental services with a $40 copay and charges 20% visit coinsurance.
Nonetheless, these plans are expensive. A $4,000 annual student health plan may seem inconsequential. But after a decade with a 5% interest rate, it could turn into a $26,000 debt for every four-year college graduate. Therefore, if you already have the coverage, you may want to opt out of your school’s health insurance plan.
Can You Opt-Out of a Student Health Plan?
You can opt-out of university-sponsored coverage at every school, typically by submitting a waiver. A waiver is a form you fill out indicating that you already have health insurance and ask to be exempt from their insurance program. To be exempt, you generally must verify that your insurance is comparable to the school’s coverage. However, every school could have its own requirements that you’ll want to familiarize yourself with.
Every school also has different requirements that a health plan needs to meet to be considered “comparable coverage.” Some elements that schools require a health insurance plan to have included emergency coverage, primary care coverage, outpatient coverage, and diagnostic services. Schools may have slightly different requirements for international students that can be found on each university’s student health website.
In addition to comparable coverage requirements, waivers are also found on the student health website at all universities. If you cannot find the waiver online, you can likely call your school’s student health department and ask them to email you a copy.
Some schools automatically enroll students in their health insurance plans and will include the cost of health insurance in your tuition, in which case you will be credited back if your waiver is approved. Other schools may have an enrollment process where you can either enroll in their health insurance plan or show that you already have coverage.
Depending on where you go to school, you may need to submit the waiver at the beginning of every semester or academic year. If you can show that you have comparable coverage, your waiver should be approved. You must meet the deadline to submit a waiver if you want to opt-out, or you may be charged for your school’s health insurance.
For example, the links to the forms to submit a waiver at several schools in New York, New Jersey, and California can be found below:
- New York University
- Columbia University
- Fordham University
- Manhattan College
- The New School
- Rutgers University
- Stanford University
In-network providers have a contract with your insurance company to accept discounted rates, while out-of-network providers do not. As a result, you may be charged more if you see an out-of-network provider.
If you are covered by a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plan, you will need to pay the full price to see an out-of-network provider. If you are in school in another state and covered by an HMO plan from your parents, you may have a hard time finding in-network providers.
One solution is a membership with Mira. Mira is a health plan that covers doctor visits, lab tests, and prescriptions at affordable copays. Mira only costs $45/mo, and you can add membership on top of your existing insurance. Therefore, adding a membership with Mira can be a cheaper alternative to buying a new health insurance plan at your school.
For many, the best student health insurance plan will either be the plan they are covered by from their parents or the school’s offering. You can opt-out of your school’s insurance plan if you have another one that meets their requirements, so make sure you check with the school before filling out the waiver. Overall, every student must have health coverage, and the key is finding the most affordable option for your personal situation.
Jacqueline graduated from the University of Virginia in 2021 with a B.A. in Global Public Health and is a current M.D. candidate at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Jacqueline has been working for Mira since April 2020 and is passionate about the intersection of public health and medical care.