With health insurance, you pay a company a monthly sum—your premium. In return, the company agrees to cover a percentage of your health care costs, such as doctor visits, prescription medications, or hospital stays.
A common myth is that college students don’t need health insurance because they’re young and generally healthy. But one in six young adults has a chronic health condition, and nearly half of young adults report problems affording their medical bills.1 Getting health coverage is an essential safeguard for your finances.
As a college student, you have the following insurance options:
Insurance through your parents: If you are under the age of 26, you can join your parents’ health insurance plan.
School-offered coverage: Many colleges offer insurance plans for incoming students.
Insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace: You can enroll in an insurance plan on Healthcare.gov. Depending on your income, you may qualify for subsidies that make coverage more affordable, or you can purchase an inexpensive catastrophic plan.
Medicaid: Depending on your income and location, you may be eligible for Medicaid, the federal insurance program for low-income individuals.16 You can apply for coverage through your state Medicaid agency.
Private plans: You may also opt for an insurance plan offered by a private insurance company. These plans may or may not meet the requirements of the ACA, but can provide coverage against major accidents or illnesses.
Can College Students Use Their Parents’ Health Insurance?
Under the Affordable Care Act, college students and young adults can stay on their parents’ health insurance policies until they turn 26 years old. You can join or remain on your parents’ plan even if you are married, live separately from your parents, or are financially independent.
Getting coverage through your parents’ plan can be beneficial because you can continue seeing your current healthcare providers, you may get access to more comprehensive coverage than you’d get on your own, and adding a family member to an existing policy may be cheaper than getting individual coverage.
You can be added to your parents’ policy during the annual Open Enrollment period, or you may qualify for Special Enrollment if you lose your existing healthcare coverage.
When you turn 26, you’re no longer eligible for your parents’ coverage, and you’ll have to get insurance on your own.
What Does Health Insurance for College Students Cost?
How much health insurance costs as a college student is dependent on your income, state, and student status.
For example, low-income students who qualify for Medicaid may pay $0 per month for coverage, while school-offered insurance typically costs between $1,500 and $2,500 per year.
If you opt for a plan from the Health Insurance Marketplace, your premiums are based on your tier and deductible. If you fall within certain income requirements, you may be eligible for subsidies that reduce your cost.
How We Chose the Best Health Insurance for College Students
To identify the best health insurance for college students, we looked at multiple options, including Medicaid, Health Insurance Marketplace plans, school-offered insurance, short-term policies, and insurance offered by private companies. In total, we looked at 17 different options and evaluated them based on their total annual cost, availability, provider network, and financial stability rating. Because college students are typically on a tight budget, particular attention was paid to plans that offered low premiums and comprehensive coverage.