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A college education is essential to career development and lifelong learning, but there’s no denying that it can be a costly investment, especially with tuition, fees and accommodation becoming increasingly expensive every year. 

Our previous post guides parents through ways to reduce college costs, such as taking advantage of dual-enrollment programs to give kids a headstart in transitioning to college while also saving money on tuition for a few courses or even an entire semester.

However, beyond tuition and boarding costs, one of the essential college expenses to prepare for is health care. How do you. handle college student health care?

Financial services company Bankrate estimates that medical care costs can reach up to $2,500 per year, with the costs being higher if your child needs prescription medication or medical services not covered by the campus health centers. Since health and wellness significantly influence academic performance, below are ways to prepare for and meet your kids’ health care needs in college while still saving money for other essential expenses like technology and emergency funds.

Your Options for Health Care Coverage

What exactly are your options for health care coverage?

  1. Parent health insurance: Your child can remain on your health insurance plans until they turn 26, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. This option provides coverage for a wide range of medical services and is often convenient for students.
  2. University health plans: Many universities and colleges offer their own health insurance plans specifically designed for students. These plans typically cover services provided at the university health center and may include options for both on-campus and off-campus care.
  3. Government programs: Undergraduate students with low incomes may qualify for government-sponsored health insurance programs like Medicaid. Eligibility requirements vary by state, so check with your state’s Medicaid office to see if your child will qualify.
  4. Private health insurance: You can also purchase private health insurance plans if your child doesn’t qualify for coverage under parent insurance or through their university. Private plans offer flexibility in choosing providers and coverage options but may be more expensive.
  5. Health insurance marketplaces (ACA): Through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace, undergraduate students can explore and purchase subsidized health insurance plans based on their income level. You may want to look into this if your child doesn’t have access to other coverage options.
  6. Student health centers: Most campuses have on-campus health centers that provide basic medical services to students at low or no cost. While these centers may not replace comprehensive insurance coverage, they offer convenient access to care for minor illnesses and injuries.
  7. COBRA coverage: Undergraduate students who recently lost coverage under a parent’s health insurance plan may be eligible for COBRA continuation coverage, which allows them to continue the same coverage for a limited time period. However, COBRA can be expensive as the individual is responsible for the entire premium.

Get an idea of all your options and compare costs and coverages so you know which works best for your child. Understand enrollment deadlines and other factors so you don’t lose out on any one type of coverage, including university coverage.

Review Your Child’s Current Health Insurance Coverage

Young adults stay under their parents’ insurance plans until age 26, but it may not be the most ideal if your child moves to college out of state and can’t stay covered by the plan’s network of care providers. 

Ensure you understand the details of their coverage so you can compare it with campus health plans, which can cost an annual average of $2,924 for public universities and $3,874 for private schools. 

These school-sponsored plans can be more affordable than getting health insurance through the marketplace and help you save money by lumping the price of on-campus care with tuition and fees. 

Consider Additional Coverage

If you choose to stick to your child’s current plan, then at least consider additional coverage, such as vision insurance, which costs an average of $95. Considering college students are at risk of eye conditions like computer vision syndrome and myopia due to increased screen time and online learning, vision insurance can help reduce out-of-pocket expenses for routine eye exams and corrective eyewear. Fortunately, many optical retailers, including the budget-friendly Eyebuydirect, accept vision insurance even when you order glasses online for new or updated prescriptions. While the platform already provides stylish and affordable frames starting at $6, the cost savings from insurance can help your child afford additional protective features like blue light filters while still staying on budget.

Look into Online Health Services

Health-related expenses can also rack up easily if your kids attend school outside of your home state, whether it’s due to kids traveling for routine care or their insurance coverage being geographically limited. Fortunately, online health services are a viable option for saving time and money while still getting them the quality care that they deserve.

Given that more than 60% of college students meet the diagnostic criteria for at least one mental health problem, virtual health providers like TimelyCare can make mental health services more accessible to college students. The platform partners with over 300 institutions worldwide and provides up to nine free scheduled sessions of counseling and therapy every year.

In addition to these money-saving tips, instill healthy habits and choices into your kids’ daily lifestyles, such as eating well and sleeping on time. Continue to check in as they settle into college life, and you’ll find that the transition will be smooth and stress-free. Continue reading College Money Tips for more helpful resources.

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