By the time your children toss their high school graduation caps into the air, they'll probably have a good idea about their intended college and course of study, but is their health insurance something you've thought about?
Many times, a parent's medical plan will cover their children until they're 24 years old. If your health insurance plan does not cover college students, it would be beneficial to look into what college health plans are offered at your child's university.
College health insurance basics
College health insurance plans may be subsidized by tuition at some schools, and may ultimately save parents money. College health insurance plans are not free, and the benefits may vary from college to college. Health insurance companies meet with committees from different schools to design a plan, specifically tailored to that school's students. Free services may be offered at the health center.
If you choose to purchase the college health insurance plan for your student, office visits will usually be fully covered, but students may be charged a co-pay for lab work, x-rays, physical therapy, prescriptions, and procedures such as treatment for a wound. Other services that may be covered include mental health, newborn and infant care, routine pap and pelvic exams, routine AIDS/STD testing, as well as cholesterol screenings. Premiums and benefits vary from college to college, sometimes due to state laws.
A key question-if you're considering keeping your student on your family plan-is whether doctors from your network will be easily available if your student is out-of-state. All HMO-only plans require referrals for visits to out-of-network providers and to specialists. And, PPO plans will reimburse less for visits to out-of-network physicians. If your child chooses a college out of state, and you want them to get prompt medical care without having to call home for a physician's referral, it would be a good idea to consider the college health plan offered by their school. What are health insurance networks, and what are the different types of plans? Learn more about HMO, PPO, and POS plans.
Things to consider when evaluating a college health insurance policy
Several factors can make a crucial difference in timely care. Be sure to find out:
Don't let your child's coverage lapse
If your child has a pre-existing medical condition, a lapse in health insurance coverage could cause problems later. Under HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), pre-existing conditions can only be subject to coverage exclusions for 12 months (or 18 months in the case of late plan enrollment). However, if qualifying coverage is maintained without a lapse of 63 days, the health insurance company must subtract the length of coverage from the exclusion period. For example, 8 months of prior coverage would result in a 4-month exclusion period, whereas 18 years of coverage would result in no exclusion period. Therefore, it's important to maintain continuous coverage of all conditions, even if it means buying new health insurance or enrolling in a high-priced plan for a short period.
Do you have any questions or comments? Please let us know.
Originally posted September 16, 2004.
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