Getting ready for college, healthcare was the furthest thing from my mind…that is until I got a hefty bill in the mail for a simple office visit when I got the flu. Up until my leaving for college, I had lived a relatively sheltered life where there was food stocked in the fridge, my parents paid for doctor and dental visits, and I may have worked my part time job to stash extra money away. As the reality of bills, health insurance, and working for a living sets in, here are some tips to finding a health insurance plan without losing your mind.
First of all, check with your parents policy. Most plan will cover children up until the age of 25 as long as you are still dependent on them for a portion of your money. They are not required to claim you as a dependent. In fact, you can still claim yourself and your earnings on your own. If your parents assist you at all with school, books, car insurance, etc you are still covered under their policy.
If your parents policy does not cover you, it’s time to hit the pavement. Talk to your schools administration. Some schools have set up group policies for their workers or organizations. See if you can buy into that plan. Most schools offer discounted healthcare for general visits if you use their facilities. By offering cheap office visits and hefty deductions on prescription medication, most general healthcare is provided at a reasonable price.
If your school is not an affiliate of a program like that, jump online and do your research. United Healthcare is an organization that works through certain universities and affiliations that offers competitive plans that you can purchase.
Another option is to enlist the help of a healthcare agent. Most times, they will be able to guide you in finding a reputable company that has competitive plans for students. An agent will also be able to assist you by explaining the differences in HMO and PPO plans, digesting what is in fine print, and accessing what your needs will be from a health plan.
Be sure you understand what is covered and not covered. Most plans do not cover maternity and most that do have a lull before coverage is activated. Make sure you understand what your monthly pay is (and when it is due – if payment lapses, coverage may be canceled), your deductible, co-pays, and charge for medication. Ask what your yearly and life-time caps are, and have general understanding about what is covered in emergency situations versus preventative visits.
Making sure you are covered in case of emergency is crucial, yet little things like bladder infections, flu shots, and antibiotics can really add up without the proper healthcare. One UTI (bladder infection) later, and I owed almost $5000 in emergency room costs, doctors visits, medications and follow up care. Don’t make the same mistakes I did.