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Graduation Season and Health Insurance

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What You Need to Know

  • Keeping the kids on a parent’s group plan can lead to network problems.
  • College and university plans may have big coverage holes.
  • For some students, a local ACA plan could be a good option.

Graduation season is upon us. In my house, that means an end to a very busy and stressful senior year where we were working through college visits and applications to schools, all in the middle of a health pandemic. Like countless other families, we’ve experienced an incredible amount of unknowns, including how we will ensure our son has health coverage.

For the 20 million kids who are returning to universities and colleges in the fall, this is a great time for health insurance agents to get together with their clients to discuss the health care needs of their college-aged children.

Even for fifinancial professionals who focus on life insurance and annuities, this topic may be a great way to start a wide-ranging financial wellness conversation.

After all, there’s already enough unknowns when it comes to how COVID has impacted the college experience. Personally, we were left wondering how the virus would impact admissions. Once our son is in college, will he have a roommate? Or would it be safer if he stayed close to home?

Even after my son was admitted to school, we were still plagued by questions. We weren’t sure what high school graduation would look like during COVID, or if his chosen university would require a vaccine.

But there’s one big question every parent must address: What health insurance will their child be covered by? Considering the health pandemic that we are currently experiencing, health insurance is vitally important. Fortunately, it’s a question that can be easily answered by a knowledgeable insurance agent.

1. Employer Plan Coverage

Under the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), employees who choose to cover their children under their employer-sponsored insurance can do so until their children reach age 26. The plans are even required to cover the children if they’re married. As such, it can seem very attractive to keep a college student on their parent’s plan.

However, it’s important to take a look at the in-network and out-of-network coverage that the parent’s plan offers. If the plan has no in-network coverage in the area where the student will be living, in the event of an unexpected accident or illness, out-of-network costs may be so high that a local plan with healthy network discounts may be more attractive.

2. College or University Plans

Each college and university will offer different student health insurance plans. It’s advisable to review the plan offered by your student’s school to determine if it is a good fit. Some things to consider when evaluating the plan are monthly premium costs, out of pocket costs, including deductibles and coinsurance, as well as prescription coverage. Also, be sure to check the network to make sure that it covers not only the university health center but also the local urgent care and hospitals.

3. No Parent Plan, No College Plan: No Problem

For some students, their parent’s plan might not be an option. After doing some research, they might find their school’s plan also doesn’t fit their health care needs. If the student is living in another state from their parents, they may want to consider enrolling in their own ACA plan. A local ACA plan will offer in-network benefits that may be the best fit for your student.

During this high school graduation season, we have encountered so many questions about what the future may hold for our college students. And during a health pandemic, health insurance is more important than ever. Reach out to your families with college-age kids and help them navigate their health insurance options.


Jan DubauskasJan Dubauskas is vice president and senior counsel at Benefytt.

(Image: Shutterstock)