What You Need to Know
You can get medical coverage through your parents’ plan or your own plan.
Costs and benefits vary for different kinds of insurance.
Student health plans and those that meet Affordable Care Act requirements are available during limited enrollment periods, while others can be available at any time.
As you head off to your college or university, are you planning for healthcare? Like most college students, you may think you don’t need health insurance because you don’t see doctors that much. You’re part of the age group with the highest uninsured rate.1 But if your school requires medical insurance or if you want to be covered, you have several choices in Alaska.
What Are Health Insurance Options for Alaska Students?
Here are some types of student health insurance policies available in Alaska:
- Through your college or university: Your school may offer an affordable student plan, either its own or from an insurance company.
- Your parents’ insurance plan: By law, you can stay on their plan until age 26.
- Health Insurance Marketplace plans: You can buy plans through the federal Marketplace that comply with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare.
- Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): Based on your age and income, no- or low-cost health insurance may be available through the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.
- Catastrophic health plans: If you’re under 30, you can buy a high-deductible plan that covers serious accidents or illnesses for a lower monthly cost.
- Short-term health plans: You can get short-term plans that cover up to 364 days initially, renewable for a total of 36 months.
- Job-based health plans: If you’re working, your job may provide medical insurance to employees.
Why Do Alaska Students Need Health Insurance?
Your school may require you to buy its student health plan or show proof of similar coverage for admission. Or, like one in six young adults, you may be managing a chronic medical condition.2
Without insurance, an unexpected illness or accident could put you in debt before you even start working. For example, the government estimates3 that it costs up to $7,500 to fix a broken leg or $30,000 to spend three days in a hospital.
What to Consider When Searching for Student Health Coverage in Alaska?
Here are some questions to think about as you look at insurance options:
Will You Attend School In-State or Out-of-State?
If your parents’ job-based plan or Marketplace plan covers dependents, it can cover you no matter where you go to school. Check that their plan has network providers close to your school. That way, you’ll pay in-network rates for services.
Can Someone Claim You as a Dependent?
Your parents can claim you as a dependent. If they do, you can’t get premium subsidies if you buy your own Marketplace plan.
Will You Stay on Your Parents’ Plan or Enroll in Your Own Plan?
What Plans Are Cheaper?
Your (or your family’s) income determines if you’re eligible for Medicaid’s free or low-cost health coverage or premium-lowering subsidies on Marketplace plans. Catastrophic plans have low premiums, but they don’t qualify for subsidies.5
What Plans Offer Better Coverage?
Health plans that follow ACA requirements typically offer the most comprehensive coverage. They’re required by law to cover preexisting conditions like diabetes and “10 essential health benefits,” including hospital care, emergency services, prescription drug coverage and mental health services.
What If You Skip Health Insurance?
Alaska doesn’t mandate health insurance so you won’t pay a penalty for being uninsured. If your school doesn’t require insurance, you could save money on insurance premiums. If you need medical care, though, you risk large out-of-pocket bills.
What Are Health Insurance Rules in Alaska?
Providers in Alaska aren’t allowed to charge out-of-network rates on services at in-network facilities if the patient couldn’t choose an in-network provider. This practice is known as “surprise billing.”6
How Do You Get Covered Under Your Parents’ Plan in Alaska?
Your parents can add you to their insurance plan during the annual Open Enrollment Period (or during a Special Enrollment Period if you’re eligible).7 If a plan offers dependent child coverage, you’re covered until age 26. You qualify even if you don’t live with your parents or if you graduate, get married or have a baby.8
Check Your Network
If you’re insured through your parents’ healthcare plan, be sure it has network providers near your school, especially if you’re an out-of-state student.
How Do You Get Covered Under Your School Plan in Alaska?
Many schools offer student health plans to their undergraduates if they’re enrolled for a minimum number of credit hours. Costs and benefits will vary by school. Some schools combine the costs with other school fees, so you can use your financial aid to pay for them. Your school’s admissions office will have more details.9
The University of Alaska Anchorage, through its Student Health and Counseling Center (SHCC), provides routine healthcare services to eligible students who carry at least one credit. The school charges $36.50 per credit per semester as part of its Anchorage Consolidated Fee. SHCC is a preferred (in-network) provider for Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield for further services and works with other insurance companies. Students within certain income levels are encouraged to check for lower-cost options through Alaska’s Marketplace.
Alaska Pacific University charges a $150-per-semester wellness fee to all full-time students ($75 for part-time students) to cover basic primary care services. It also requires proof of health insurance from all students living in university housing. The school works with its partners at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium in developing its health protocols.
The University of Alaska Southeast’s Student Health Center offers services to students taking at least one credit at the Juneau campus. Students enrolled at other University of Alaska institutions with at least six credits pay $60 per semester to use the Student Health Center. The health center can diagnose, prescribe medications or refer to specialists. The school doesn’t require health insurance or offer a student health insurance plan, but it does suggest buying coverage from Alaska’s Health Insurance Marketplace.10
School Plans An Option
Some colleges and universities offer student healthcare plans of their own or private plans through insurance companies.
How Do You Get Covered Through the Affordable Care Act in Alaska?
If you qualify, you can buy an ACA-compliant individual plan in Alaska through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace. Plans are also available off-exchange from insurers, certified agents and brokers.
You can be added to your parents’ insurance plan during the annual Open Enrollment Period, from November 1 to December 15. If you miss that period, you can still be added if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period in situations like losing other health coverage.
The Marketplace plans run month-to-month, so you can get coverage for less than a full year.
You may want to buy your own policy. If you’re eligible, you could lower your out-of-pocket costs with subsidies such as an advanced premium tax credit (APTC) or cost-sharing reductions (CSR) available with specific Marketplace plans.11 About 84% of Alaskans applying for these subsidies qualify for APTCs.12 You lose access to subsidies if you buy ACA plans outside of the Marketplace.
How Do You Get Covered Through Medicaid or CHIP in Alaska?
Medicaid plans (known as DenaliCare) provide coverage to Alaska residents with low income or disability through the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.
In 2015, Alaska expanded Medicaid under the ACA to cover nearly all nonelderly adults (ages 19 to 64) earning under 138% of the federal poverty level.13 (The federal poverty level rates are higher in Alaska than elsewhere.)
If you’re under 19 and you or your family earn too much for Medicaid, you may qualify for Alaska’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), called Denali KidCare.
What Are Other Options for Coverage in Alaska?
If you’re part of the American Indian or Alaska Native community, you likely have access to healthcare through Alaska’s extensive tribal health system, including the Indian Health Service (IHS), tribal programs, or urban Indian health programs. You also have preferential access to Alaska’s Marketplace, Medicaid or CHIP programs.15 Your college will determine if that healthcare meets its health insurance requirements.
If you’re under 30, a catastrophic health plan may be a good option. These plans, designed mainly for major health issues, are available through the Marketplace at lower premiums.16 Because of the high deductible, you may have to pay for most services out-of-pocket before your coverage begins. Your plan covers preventive care and three primary care office visits per year even if the deductible hasn’t been met.
Alaska offers short-term health plans with up to 364 days of initial coverage and renewals totaling 36 months.17 These plans do not have to offer ACA-level benefits, and insurance companies can reject you for any reason, including for preexisting conditions.
What Are Resources for Alaska Students?
Your school’s admissions office will be able to guide you. You can get information on non-school plans through the federal Marketplace website or Alaska’s ARIES self-service portal. You can also call the Alaska Division of Insurance at (800) 467-8725.
If you decide you want health insurance, look at the many healthcare options available in Alaska, and choose the plan that fits your needs best before you head off to school.