Insights

Best 5 Health Insurance Options for College Students 2021

Jacqueline Slobin12 Apr 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 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, such as 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.

4. Join a Workplace Plan 

If you work part-time while you are a student, your employer may be able to add you to his or her 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 then 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. 

Understanding Student Health Insurance  

Health insurance is difficult enough to understand but students have the added complexity of making sure they meet the requirements of the school they’re attending. The most important thing is that you 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 are unable to 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.  

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, the cost of 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

SchoolAnnual CostDeductibleServices Included
New York University

$3,645

No deductibleNYU Health
Columbia University

$3,676

$600 for out of network providerColumbia Aetna page
Rutgers University

$2,746

not specifiedUnitedHealthcare Rutgers
UCLA

$2,605

$300 for in-networkUC SHIP
Stanford University

$5,208

$100Vaden Stanford

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. NYU, which is less expensive, offers dental services with a $40 copay each time 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 that you fill out indicating that you already have health insurance and asking to be exempt from their insurance program. In order 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 in order to be considered “comparable coverage.” Some elements that schools require a health insurance plan to have, include 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 choose to 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 every academic year. If you are able to show that you have comparable coverage, your waiver should be approved. It is essential that you meet the deadline to submit a waiver if you would like 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: 

Options if You Have Coverage But No In-Network Providers Near Your School 

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. 

Bottom Line

For many, the best student health insurance plan is going to 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. 

Millennials are leaving health insurance carriers to join the new "CostCo" of healthcare.

"My insurance premiums went up 30% this year. My husband and I switched to Mira and never looked back," said Danna - Brooklyn, NYC