How to get health insurance as a college student

Navigating the world of health insurance can be daunting, especially for college students who may be managing their healthcare independently for the first time.

Understanding the options and steps to get health insurance as a college student is crucial for maintaining good health and financial security. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help college students navigate the process of obtaining health insurance.

Importance of Health Insurance for College Students

Health insurance is vital for college students as it provides access to necessary medical care, protects against high healthcare costs, and offers peace of mind in case of unexpected illnesses or injuries. Whether you’re attending college full-time or part-time, having health insurance ensures that you can receive timely medical treatment without worrying about exorbitant medical bills.

Options for Obtaining Health Insurance

College students have several options for obtaining health insurance coverage:

Parent’s Health Insurance: Many students under the age of 26 can remain on their parent’s health insurance plan as dependents. This option is often cost-effective and provides comprehensive coverage.

Student Health Insurance Plans (SHIP): Some colleges and universities offer their own health insurance plans specifically designed for students. These plans may provide coverage for services at the campus health center and referrals for off-campus care.

Marketplace Plans: Students can explore health insurance options through the Health Insurance Marketplace ( or state-based marketplaces. These plans may offer subsidies based on income and provide essential health benefits.

Medicaid: Eligible students with low income may qualify for Medicaid, a state and federally funded program that provides free or low-cost health coverage to individuals and families.

Short-Term Health Insurance: Short-term health insurance plans are designed to provide temporary coverage for specific periods, such as gaps in coverage between school terms or until other coverage options become available.

Steps to Get Health Insurance as a College Student

Understand Your Needs: Evaluate your healthcare needs, including regular check-ups, prescriptions, specialist visits, and potential emergencies. Consider factors such as existing health conditions and anticipated healthcare expenses.

Review Parent’s Plan: If you’re eligible to remain on your parent’s health insurance plan, review the coverage details, costs, network of providers, and any limitations that may apply.

Explore Student Health Plans: Check if your college or university offers a Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP). Review the plan’s benefits, coverage limits, premiums, deductibles, and out-of-pocket costs.

Research Marketplace Plans: Visit the Health Insurance Marketplace or state-based marketplaces to explore available health insurance plans. Compare plans based on premiums, deductibles, copayments, network providers, and covered services.

Check Medicaid Eligibility: Determine if you qualify for Medicaid based on your income and household size. Visit your state’s Medicaid website or contact a local Medicaid office for eligibility guidelines and application procedures.

Consider Short-Term Coverage: If you need temporary coverage or are transitioning between insurance plans, consider short-term health insurance options. Compare plans and ensure they meet your healthcare needs during the coverage period.

Gather Necessary Documents: When applying for health insurance, gather required documents such as proof of identity, residency, income, and any other documentation specified by the insurance provider or marketplace.

Apply for Coverage: Depending on the chosen option (parent’s plan, student health plan, marketplace plan, Medicaid, or short-term coverage), complete the application process online, by phone, or through a paper application. Provide accurate information and follow instructions carefully.

Review and Confirm Coverage: Once your application is processed and approved, review the details of your health insurance coverage. Understand key terms, coverage levels, network providers, copayments, deductibles, and any exclusions or limitations.

Utilize Preventive Care: Take advantage of preventive healthcare services covered by your insurance plan, such as annual check-ups, vaccinations, screenings, and wellness programs. These services help maintain your health and detect potential issues early.

Understand Financial Responsibilities: Familiarize yourself with your health insurance plan’s financial responsibilities, including premiums, deductibles, copayments, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket maximums. Keep track of medical expenses and know how to access coverage and benefits when needed.

Tips for College Students Regarding Health Insurance

Stay In-Network: Whenever possible, choose healthcare providers, hospitals, and pharmacies that are in-network with your insurance plan to avoid higher out-of-pocket costs.

Understand Coverage Limits: Be aware of any coverage limits, exclusions, and restrictions within your health insurance plan. Understand what services and treatments are covered and any pre-authorization requirements.

Keep Insurance Information Handy: Carry your health insurance card or digital copy with you at all times. Know how to access your insurance information online or through a mobile app for quick reference.

Update Information as Needed: Notify your insurance provider or marketplace of any changes in personal information, such as address, income, marital status, or eligibility for other coverage options.

Utilize Student Health Resources: Take advantage of on-campus health resources, such as student health centers, counseling services, wellness programs, and educational resources on health insurance and healthcare management.


Health insurance is a fundamental aspect of financial and healthcare planning for college students. By understanding the available options, assessing healthcare needs, applying for coverage, and staying informed about insurance benefits and responsibilities, college students can ensure access to essential medical care and financial protection in case of illness or injury. Taking proactive steps to secure health insurance empowers students to prioritize their health and well-being while pursuing their academic goals.

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