The to-do list for students heading off or back to college is a long one: paying tuition, buying books and packing are always on the list. But getting health insurance often isn’t something students or parents think about.
The truth is, most Florida colleges and universities require that every student is insured through a comprehensive health insurance plan. This mandate isn’t always publicized by schools, though, so it can come as a surprise when this cost appears on a student’s first bill.
Some schools also won’t accept a student’s existing health insurance coverage (typically under their parent’s plan), either. It may take jumping through some hoops to verify that your child’s current coverage is sufficient.
That’s why it’s wise to know what to expect and what your options are for health insurance at the Florida college or university you or your child is attending.
Why Florida Students Need Health Insurance
Many college students are young and healthy, but illness and accidents can happen anytime and anywhere. If it does, unexpected medical expenses could even prevent students from completing their degree. That’s why most Florida colleges and universities require that every student has a policy that includes coverage for emergency services, hospitalization, outpatient care, prescription medications, preventive care and mental health services.
Not only will this coverage ensure students can be treated for more serious health issues that can’t be handled at the campus health center, but it will also help ensure they aren’t saddled with crushing medical debt when it comes time to graduate.
Most Florida schools provide services for minor health issues like flu, sprains and infections. While you won’t incur a copayment at most student health clinics, these services aren’t free in Florida; schools charge a state-mandated per-credit-hour health fee to pay for them. That fee is often simply included as part of your bill for tuition, room and board and other fees for the semester or school year, so you might not even notice it unless you closely examine it.
What You Need to Know:
Nearly all Florida colleges and universities require students to have health insurance coverage.
Many schools in the state offer their own affordably priced insurance plans that will give you access to local providers.
If you want to keep your existing plan, you may need to get a waiver from your college saying your plan provides adequate coverage according to the school’s requirements.
What to Consider When Searching for Student Health Coverage in Florida
There are several things you should consider when looking for the health insurance that’s right for you as a student going to school in Florida.
Are You a Florida Resident Attending a Florida School?
Every state has its own set of health insurance regulations. This is why insurance companies operate by different rules depending on where they are and why provider networks differ by state. The school you attend will determine what coverage is sufficient for its students, so a plan that covers you in your home state may not cover you in Florida.
If you’re a Florida resident attending a Florida school, it’s likely that whatever coverage you currently have — whether that’s your parent’s health insurance plan, Medicaid coverage, or a federal or state Health Insurance Marketplace plan under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — will provide the same coverage while you’re in school.
As mentioned above, if you’re a resident of another state who’s coming to Florida to study, though, your current insurance plan may not cover you and any providers you’d need to see would likely be out of your network.
Most Florida colleges and universities require that every student is insured through a comprehensive health insurance plan.
Can Someone Claim You as a Dependent?
If your parent(s), a guardian or someone else can claim you as a dependent for income tax purposes, it’s likely you can remain on that person’s health insurance plan until age 26. If your parents are applying for an ACA Marketplace plan (also known as Obamacare) during the Open Enrollment Period, they can include you, too.
If you’re leaving your home state to attend college in Florida, you can apply for an ACA health insurance plan in Florida on your own and still remain as a dependent for tax purposes, although your parent’s income will be considered on the Marketplace application.
Will You Stay on Your Parent’s Health Insurance Plan or Enroll in Your Own Plan?
There are a few factors to consider when making this decision. Cost and coverage (meaning what benefits are included) are key considerations, of course, especially if you have a preexisting condition or are at risk for illness. It may cost you little or nothing to remain on your parent’s plan, and that policy might provide better benefits, especially if you continue to see a specialist or other provider back home.
Another consideration is privacy. Although access to your medical records is protected by signing a HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) form if you’re 18 or older, if you remain on your parent’s plan, they will have access to statements and explanation of benefits information from the insurance company.
Which Plan Offers the Best Value?
Many colleges offer their own affordably priced health insurance plan for students, but be sure you look closely at all the costs:
- Premiums (the annual cost to have insurance, paid monthly).
- Deductible (the amount you have to spend before your plan starts to contribute toward your healthcare expenses).
- Copays for doctor’s office visits and/or medication.
- Coinsurance (your share of a payment against a claim, which kicks in after you’ve met your deductible).
Together, these costs could be more than what you’d pay under your parent’s plan. Remember, too, that the deductible for a family plan is usually met much more quickly than a plan covering only one person.
To determine if a plan has the coverage you really need, start by answering these questions:
- Are there in-network providers within easy access of where you’ll be going to school?
- Does your college’s student health plan only include providers from its own healthcare system?
- Are prescriptions, mental health and preventive care covered?
- Do you have a preexisting medical condition that requires frequent treatment and/or medication? If so, are there in-network providers on your parent’s plan or qualified local providers if you switch plans?
- If you study abroad, will your plan cover you while you’re there?
Know Your Costs
Many colleges offer their own affordably priced health insurance plan for students, but be sure you look closely at all the costs:
What If You Skip Health Insurance Coverage?
Since most colleges in Florida mandate health insurance coverage, it may not be possible to opt out. And remember that even if your school doesn’t require it, you run the risk of incurring medical debt should you have an illness or injury the student health center can’t handle.
What Are the Health Insurance Rules for Students in Florida?
Florida mandates that its public colleges assess a health fee on every student; this subsidizes health services and activities. Students can see a primary care physician without copays at the student health services clinic and discounts additional services such as X-rays and lab tests.
For these and other services not fully covered by the health fee, campuses accept certain in-network health plans. You can usually find a list of in-network plans on the school’s website. Costs not covered by your health fee or your own insurance plan will be billed to you directly.
How to Get Covered Under Your Parent’s Plan in Florida
The ACA requires insurance plans to offer dependent coverage for children up to age 26. And if your parents claim you as a dependent and you live and attend college in Florida, they can obtain coverage for you on their health insurance plan if it offers dependent coverage.
If you go to college in Florida and your parents live in a different state, your coverage on their plan should apply to Florida providers if the policy is network-based and there are Florida providers in the plan’s network.
How to Get Covered Under Your School Plan in Florida
As mentioned above, many Florida colleges offer their own health insurance plans to students and some automatically enroll you and include the cost in your bill for tuition and other fees. Others, including the University of Florida, require that you purchase their health plan unless you obtain a waiver proving you have comparable coverage under another plan.
The University of Central Florida does not require that students have a health plan but strongly encourages it. It endorses a student injury and sickness insurance plan which full-time students may apply for during an Open Enrollment Period. And its Student Health Services is an in-network provider for six major plans. Otherwise, students pay out-of-pocket for any service not included in the health fee all students must pay.
Florida International University and Florida State University have also teamed up with a major insurer to offer a health insurance plan to their students.
Private colleges, such as the University of Miami and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, may also have requirements for adequate health insurance and could offer a plan to students who don’t already have coverage.
Some school-provided plans may allow you to use your financial aid package to pay your monthly premiums.
For some students, remaining on their parent’s plan and paying the premium for the school’s plan ensures coverage for major medical issues and routine care while at school. If your only coverage will be through the school’s plan, make sure it’s considered qualified health coverage as defined by the ACA.
How to Get Covered through the Affordable Care Act in Florida
Florida does not have its own state ACA Health Insurance Marketplace where you can buy a health plan. Instead, it participates in the federally facilitated Marketplace, operated through healthcare.gov.
Students may apply by being added to their parent’s Obamacare plan during the Open Enrollment Period or apply on their own for coverage in Florida. Moving to Florida to go to college may also qualify you to enroll during a Special Enrollment Period.
Applying on your own might also enable you to receive premium subsidies offered under Obamacare; these help you pay premiums if your income qualifies you. That’s because by applying on your own, only your income will be taken into account not your family’s household income.
How to Get Covered through Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) in Florida
If you apply for a Marketplace plan as a college student living in Florida, you’ll also be notified automatically if you qualify for the state’s Medicaid or CHIP coverage (available through the age of 18). If you do qualify, coverage will begin immediately.
What Are Other Options for Coverage in Florida?
Catastrophic health insurance plans have low premiums but high deductibles. People under the age of 30 are eligible to apply for a catastrophic plan, which meets the ACA’s qualifying health coverage standard. These plans provide the same essential health benefits and some preventive services as regular Marketplace plans. Check with your college to find out if it will accept a catastrophic plan as coverage.
Short-term health insurance plans are affordable and it’s typically easy to enroll, but they don’t cover all essential health benefits (as defined by the ACA) and therefore don’t count as qualifying health coverage under Obamacare. In Florida, short-term plans provide coverage for up to 364 days and may offer a renewal option for up to 36 months in total. A short-term plan might be a good option if you’re waiting for coverage to become effective on a permanent plan. Again, check with your school to see if a short-term plan provides the coverage it requires.
There are a variety of travel health insurance plans that may provide coverage for students while studying abroad, either fully or as gap coverage for benefits not covered by your existing health insurance plan.
Resources for Florida Students
Florida Medicaid Program – provides information about Florida’s Medicaid Managed Care Program, including eligibility requirements and applications
Healthcare.gov – provides information about ACA plans, coverage, eligibility and enrollment applications
Student Health Insurance/Benefits Plans Coalition – provides recommendations and standards for college student health insurance plans nationwide
Odds are, you’ll be required to have health insurance coverage while attending college in Florida. Finding which plan provides the best coverage for you at the best price requires a little homework, though the best option may be to remain on your parent’s plan, if possible.
If you aren’t a Florida resident, make sure you talk to your existing plan provider, if you have one, about any limits to your coverage while you’re going to school.
And unless you’re buying the college’s plan, be sure to obtain a waiver saying your current plan is sufficient. Whatever way you opt to get covered, once it’s done you can focus on school, knowing you’re prepared for any health issue, should it arise.