Your Guide to Health Insurance for College Students

Your Guide to Health Insurance for College Students

Americans visit the emergency room for treatment of an accidental injury almost 100 million times each year.

An unexpected accident can lead to financial ruin if you don’t have insurance. But how can you get insurance when you’re still in college?

Keep reading for our ultimate guide to purchasing health insurance for college students. 

Why is Health Insurance for College Students So Important?

When you’re young and healthy, the last thing you want to think about is getting sick. But the reality is, illness and accidents can happen to us at any age. Even if you do everything right to protect your health, medical bills can be hard to prevent. Health issues often strike when we least expect them to.

The best way to be prepared is to make sure you have health insurance in place. The cost of common medical treatments can be astronomical if you don’t have insurance. An unexpected medical bill for a single trip to the emergency room can be financially devastating for years.

In fact, 50% of Americans carry medical debt, and that number increases every year.

44 million Americans have no health insurance and 38 million have inadequate insurance. Many of these Americans put off important healthcare needs because of the cost.

With rising healthcare costs, there’s never been a more important time to have health insurance, even if you don’t expect to get sick. The past few years have been a prime example of how the unexpected can change our lives, even if we’re young and in perfect health.

Everyone needs health insurance, and college students are no exception. 

Health Insurance Options for Students

Now that’s we’ve established the importance of health insurance for college students, we can take a closer look at the best options for finding coverage. We’ll also look at the pros and cons of each to help you decide which option is right for you. 

Your Parents’ Insurance

For many college students, remaining a dependent on their parents’ health insurance is the best way to get affordable coverage. If your parent has insurance that covers dependents, you should be able to stay on their plan until you turn 26. Your parent can add you to their plan during their annual open enrollment period.

Even if you are employed, married, and living on your own, you should still qualify for coverage through your parents’ plan. If this option is available to you, you can usually save money. It’s cheaper to be added to another plan than to purchase your own plan.

If your college is out of state or in a different area than your home, your preferred providers might not be in-network. This may mean you can only visit the doctor when you are home during breaks. It’s important to realize that with this option, if your parent loses their coverage, so will you. 

Employer Insurance

If you happen to be working full time while attending college, you may qualify for health insurance through your employer. Employers generally only offer insurance benefits to full-time employees. If this is an option, you can find a good plan for a decent price because your employer will pay a portion of the costs.

You will have the option to enroll in a plan when you start your job or during an annual open enrollment period. If you lose your job, you will lose your coverage. The exception is that you can continue your coverage for a short period of time through COBRA, but this is a highly expensive option. 

A Student Health Plan

College students often have the option of getting insurance through their university or school. Most students who are accepted to the school will qualify for a plan.

With some schools, enrollment is automatic and having health insurance is a requirement of enrollment in classes. In these cases, students have the option to opt-out of this coverage if they have coverage elsewhere.

Student health plans usually require you to see providers on campus and coverage may be limited to minimum essential services. Students may also only have coverage during the school year and on campus. 

The Health Insurance Marketplace

Most college students will qualify for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, “Obamacare” insurance allows you to purchase subsidized plans that cover essential services.

You can enroll in a plan during the annual open enrollment period or during a special enrollment period. For many students, losing their prior coverage is a qualifying event to trigger a special enrollment period.

Students can find cheap coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Depending on your income and family size, you may qualify for federal subsidies or premium tax credits to reduce the cost of monthly premiums.

Students who don’t expect to need medical care but want to be covered in case of an emergency might consider purchasing a catastrophic insurance plan through the Marketplace. 


Depending on your circumstances, you may qualify for Medicaid. Medicaid is a state-run healthcare program funded by the federal government that offers insurance to low-income persons.

Each state sets its own rules for eligibility and administration. You will need to meet eligibility requirements based on income, family size, and disability status. Medicaid is generally free or very low cost. 

Are You a College Student Looking for Health Insurance?

As a college student, you want to start your adult life off on the right foot. You don’t want to graduate with the burden of medical debt.

If you’re in need of health insurance for college students, you’ve come to the right place. You can compare quotes for student health insurance side by side to get the best deal and see if you qualify for subsidies.

Click here to get your free quotes today.