“Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” 3 John 1:2 ESV
If you have a son or daughter in college or headed there soon, sickness is probably not something you want to think about for them. It will likely happen though. A question that may come up during this period when your offspring is quasi-independent is: Does my child need medical insurance? Let’s dig into a few scenarios about health insurance in college.
Mom and Dad have health insurance
The most common scenario is if your family has health insurance. This means that even if your son or daughter is living away at college, they can continue to be part of your family’s coverage. Including them on your insurance can potentially extend to the age of 26. That does not mean this option carries no additional work. Medical insurance companies often cover “in-network” and “out of network” providers differently. It’s possible that in your hometown there’s an abundance of in-network providers while your student has more limited choices nearby when at school. Investigate doctors with your student ahead of time especially if your student has an ongoing condition that requires regular visits. For scheduled checkups, scheduling when your student is visiting home might be another way to avoid out of network charges.
Mom and Dad are members of a medical sharing ministry
Most medical sharing ministries (MSMs) will allow your student to continue as part of your household membership. The terms of different programs vary, because all MSMs are different, so check carefully to ensure your situation matches the guidelines. Some programs also require that after a member turns 18, they submit their own statement of faith to abide by the terms of the MSM guidelines. Again, these programs are all different so check the terms carefully and don’t assume that your situation is included by default.
Mom and Dad do not have medical insurance
If your family is not insured, there’s a few possible paths your student can pursue.
Some universities offer health insurance for students. Some programs are administered through the school and some are administered through a third party. Schools that offer this type of option typically bundle the expense along with tuition and other fees. Help your student work through the options available to discern what is or is not included as part of the plan.
Obamacare or Marketplace Plan
Since your student is no longer a minor, they can go out and purchase medical insurance on their own. Signing up for insurance for the first time can be challenging for anyone, but in the context of starting college can be extra challenging. If your student goes down this path, they will likely need help from someone, like you, with more experience in the insurance realm.
Plan from employment
If your student has a job while they are in school, then health insurance through that employer may be an option. Don’t discount this path just because it’s a part time job. Some employers offer health insurance for part-time employees. If your student pursues this direction, help them understand the link between maintaining employment and health insurance. Navigating benefits as part of a job is well known if you’ve been part of the working world for a while but remember they’re new at this concept.
How Much to Help
The level of assistance you decide to provide to your student is a very personal choice and unique to your family. Whatever that looks like, make it transparent. Take time to talk with your young adult about what you are doing in terms of financial assistance or other help in terms of their health care. Also keep in mind, four years of higher education is a long time. The way you approach assistance for your student may need to evolve over time. The best path is have a plan and be clear about the plan for Mom, Dad, and Student.
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