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Washington, D.C. Student Health Insurance Plans | Health Care Coverage and Plans

Updated on July 1st, 2021

We want to help you make educated healthcare decisions. While this post may have links to lead generation forms, this won’t influence our writing. We adhere to strict editorial standards to provide the most accurate and unbiased information.

What You Need To Know:

If you’re attending college in D.C., health care coverage is mandatory.

Your school may require automatic enrollment in a health care plan.

Shop a variety of options, including staying on your parents’ plan, getting coverage under the ACA, and applying for insurance under Washington, D.C.’s Medicaid program, if applicable.

Washington, D.C. is a great place to attend college, with top universities and several specialty colleges. If you’re planning to attend school in Washington, D.C., though, you’ll need health care insurance to be in compliance with the health mandate for the country’s capital.

Why Do Washington, D.C. Students Need Health Insurance?

As a Washington, D.C. student, the top reason you’ll need insurance is that it’s required by your school. Unless the city approves you for hardship reasons, you’ll face a health fee of either 2.5 percent of your household income or $695 per person for failing to have adequate health insurance coverage, whichever is higher.1

But there are many other great reasons to sign up for a medical insurance plan. You’ll have the peace of mind of knowing you’ll have coverage for any health emergencies, saving you from budget-crushing medical bills. It will also help offset the cost of any prescription drugs you take. If you’re shopping for health coverage while you’re a registered student in Washington, D.C., here are some things to consider.

Will You Attend School In-State or Out of State?

If you’re on your parents’ plan but not from D.C., you may find that the network of providers you can go to may not include the doctors and hospital near your school.

Will You Stay on Your Parent’s Plan or Enroll in Your Own Plan?

According to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) you can stay on your parents’ plan until you’re 26.2 But even if you are eligible, if the plan doesn’t give you the coverage you need, you may want to get your own plan.

With Your Parents Until 26

You can stay on your parent’s plan until you turn 26 but you may be better off with your own health care plan.

What Plans Are Cheaper?

There are other costs to consider besides the monthly premium. Look at the annual deductible, as well as any coinsurance or copayments, you’ll have to pay, as well.

Help Paying for Insurance

You may be eligible for a subsidy if you purchase a plan through the Affordable Care Act.

What Plans Offer Better Coverage?

In addition to making sure providers and hospitals near campus are covered, also check to see if the specific services you anticipate using are covered under the plans you’re considering.

How To Get Covered Under Your Parents’ Plan in Washington, D.C.?

If you’re under 26, your parents may already have you on their plan. But take a close look at the coverage it offers. You may find that your coverage doesn’t include the medical services near campus, especially if you’re attending school out of state. If you’re staying on your parents’ plan, make sure it will be accepted at facilities near campus. or in nearby Virginia and Maryland.

How To Get Covered Under Your School Plan in D.C.?

Due to the insurance mandate, you’ll find many campuses have automatic enrollment in their school-sponsored health plan. Both domestic students and international students will need to show proof that you already have insurance coverage to get a waiver of that automatic student account. For example, Georgetown University automatically enrolls all undergraduates in its Premier plan.3 If you’re attending Howard University, you’ll be required to enroll in UnitedHealthcare StudentResources student health insurance plan even if you have other coverage.4

Before you head off to school, make sure your campus healthcare plan is considered qualifying coverage under the D.C. mandate.

How Do You Get Covered Through the Affordable Care Act in Washington, D.C.?

You can buy an ACA plan through the DC Health Link exchange. Monthly premiums for Washington, D.C. Marketplace plans for an individual ranged from $337 to $431 in 2021,depending on plan tier. The ACA offers subsidies based on household size and income. Use this calculator to check whether you qualify. If you’re under 26, you can get District of Columbia ACA coverage on your parents’ plan. Your parents will need to log into the portal by the enrollment deadline and include you while they’re applying. Pay close attention to the open enrollment periods mentioned in the instructions because they’re limited each academic year.

If you’re over 26 in August or September, or will be attending school out of state, you’ll apply on your own.

If your parents claim you as a dependent on their tax return, you will include their income as well as yours on the enrollment form. If they don’t claim you, include your income only, which may increase your chance of getting a subsidy. Your move to campus during the spring semester or fall semester may qualify you to sign up outside of the enrollment period due to a qualifying life change.

How Do You Get Covered Through Medicaid or CHIP in Washington, D.C.?

If your income qualifies, Medicaid could be an option for your healthcare coverage. For your family to be eligible, they’ll need to be D.C. residents, but you may qualify on your own as a new D.C. resident. To qualify as a resident, you’ll need to live in the city for at least 183 days each tax year.5 Until you reach the age of 19, you may be able to get coverage under Washington, D.C.’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). This program offers healthcare coverage to those with income too high to qualify for Medicaid.6

Learn more about Washington DC’s CHIP and Medicaid program to determine if you’re eligible.

What Are Other Options for Coverage in Washington, D.C.?

It might be worth checking into a catastrophic student health plan. With these plans, your monthly premium is low in exchange for a very high deductible. That means you’ll pay a lot out of pocket costs before coverage kicks in. If you go this route, take the time to make sure it’s in accordance with both your campus’s and the city’s mandate requirements.

Another option for students, full time or part time, is a short-term health insurance plan. This temporary insurance is a less-expensive option that provides some coverage while you’re in school. Be aware that these plans are not required to cover pre-existing conditions or preventive care like ACA plans do.

What Are Resources for Washington D.C. Students?

As a Washington, D.C. college student, you’ll have a wide range of health insurance options. Here are some resources that can help you as you start your research:

Next Steps

With health insurance mandatory in D.C., it’s important to start looking at your options as soon as possible. While coverage on your parents’ health plan may sometimes be a good deal, it’s not always the best option. Weigh the coverage offerings and premiums against what you’ll pay under the ACA and your on-campus plan to make sure you’re getting the best deal available to you.



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  1. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking. Do You Know Your Health Insurance Rights? DC.gov (Accessed February 27, Year).

  2. Code of the District of Columbia. Chapter 29D. Dependent Health Insurance. dccouncil.us (Accessed February 27, 2021).

  3. Georgetown University. Student Health Insurance. Georgetown.edu (Accessed February 27, 2021).

  4. Howard University. Student Affairs. Howard.edu (Accessed February 27, 2021).

  5. Office of Tax and Revenue. Audit Division – Frequently Asked Questions. DC.gov (Accessed February 27, 2021).

  6. Benefits.gov. District of Columbia Healthy Families (Medicaid/CHIP). Benefits.gov (Accessed February 27, 2021).