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Options for Health Care While in College

If you're making the leap from high school to college, or going to school later in life, health care and related insurance coverage are likely big concerns. Your parents may drop you from their plan when you turn 18. Or, if you're older, you may quit your full-time job to attend school and, therefore, lose your health insurance benefits. The circumstances that apply to your and others' situations may differ, but the common element is the dilemma about what to do for health care while in college.

Options for Health Care While in School

  • Health care insurance through the school. Your school might offer health insurance through its own private program. The prices and coverage can vary widely, depending upon the school and the plan you choose. Many of these programs are for preventative care only, and give you the opportunity to use the clinics located on your campus for the best savings.
  • Private insurers. Individual insurance plans, such as those through Blue Cross/Blue Shield, MetLife, and Aetna, can vary widely in cost depending on your age, health status, and other factors. Private insurance can be affordable if you are in excellent health. However, those with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure might find that the rates for private insurance are too expensive to purchase.
  • Taking advantage of COBRA. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) allows you to extend insurance coverage for a period of time after termination of your employment. There are several criteria for qualifying for COBRA. If you do qualify, your premiums might be very expensive. Because of this expense, it is often seen as a short-term solution.
  • Short-term health insurance. Short-term medical insurance typically lasts for less than a year. Plans can be paid monthly in most cases, and you can choose the insurance coverage you need, including the plan maximums and what they will cover, such as preventative care or emergency room visits. This is often a good substitute for those who don't want to pay the high cost of COBRA.
  • State insurance programs. All states participate in the Medicaid program. If you are in a low-income category and meet other criteria, such as certain health conditions (blindness, pregnancy, etc.), you might be eligible for Medicaid. Check with your state's Department of Human Services office to determine if you qualify for its program.
  • No health insurance at all. Though being uninsured is taking a huge risk on your health care and stability of your pocketbook, it is the cheapest option and a reality for many people. If you are unable to obtain health insurance, look into free or sliding scale-fee clinics, doctors who accept payment plans, and charity hospitals willing to work with you to provide the health care you need.

The world of health insurance can seem daunting, especially when you start initial research and find yourself bombarded with quotes from dozens of competing programs. Take your time researching the options that will be best for both your personal health and your bank account. Start the search early, for example, before you step away from your full-time job to pursue education. The sooner you prepare for the transition, the more likely you can avoid a lapse in insurance coverage.

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