Health Insurance Woes Face College Students
Along with the cost of tuition, today’s college students need to factor in the cost of health insurance, yet apparently many of them are not. According to the United States Census, 8 million people between 19 and 24 (28.1 percent) did not have health insurance in 2007.
For some college students, health insurance coverage is available through their parents’ policies until they are 23 years old. In eleven states, coverage lasts until age 25, and students in New Jersey can be covered by their parents’ insurance plan until age 30 unless they are married or have dependents of their own.
College students who are not covered by their parents’ health insurance policies need to secure their own plans. Many students, however, forego such coverage because they generally are healthy and don’t think they need to worry about insurance at this stage of their lives. Another major factor is cost, and given rising tuition fees, insurance premiums look formidable to many college students and their families. Yet some students have no choice.
In North Carolina, for example, college students at sixteen of the state’s University of North Carolina system will be required to have health insurance in place before they enroll in classes in fall 2010. To help students meet the cost of such insurance, the university system will offer a unified plan for those who cannot provide affordable insurance.
At the University of Kansas, students are eligible for health insurance through the Kansas Board of Regents at an affordable rate if they are taking at least six credit hours per semester. The cost this academic school year is $915 annually or $540 for both the fall and spring semesters.
At Washington University in St. Louis, the school has just brought in a new health insurance provider, which was chosen because it can provide the best coverage at the lowest cost. Bidding for student health insurance at Washington University occurs every two years, and this year sees a welcome surprise: a reduction in student health insurance fees from $686 to $550.
Students who do not opt for university-provided plans can turn to individual health insurance providers. Premiums and extent of coverage can span a wide spectrum, depending on the insurance carrier, health of the student, and plan chosen. Premiums offered by Aetna Student Health, for example, which is the largest provider of university health plans in the United States, range between $500 and $2,000 for a full year (summer is included).
College students are not immune to medical emergencies and high-cost illnesses that can put them into financial jeopardy just when they are preparing to start off in life. Part of the health care reform debate needs to address affordable health insurance for the young people who attend US colleges and universities.
The Appalachian, Aug. 27, 2009
Student Life, Aug. 28, 2009
The University Daily Kansan, Aug. 27, 2009
Wall Street Journal, Aug. 24, 2009