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What Are Health Insurance Options for Hawaii Students?

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:

Most Hawaii colleges and universities don’t require students to have health insurance, but all strongly recommend it.

Some schools may require certain students to have health coverage.

Short-term health insurance is unavailable in Hawaii.

The to-do list for students headed off to college in Hawaii is a long one. But there may be one thing missing:  health insurance coverage. You might not have thought about health insurance much, especially if you already have it through your parent’s plan. Although the Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandates that you can stay on your parent’s plan until you reach age 26, that plan may not offer the coverage you need. The good news is that you have options.

Add health insurance to your to-do list, then do little homework to find your best option for coverage. Planning ahead might help you avoid some unpleasant surprises later if you need medical care that goes beyond the scope of the campus clinic.

Why Hawaii Students Need Health Insurance

Most college students are young and healthy, but illness and accidents can happen to anyone. If they do, these unexpected medical expenses could be very costly. That’s why most Hawaii colleges and universities recommend that every student has health insurance.

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

If you’re a Hawaii resident attending a Hawaii school, it’s likely that whatever coverage you currently have will provide the same health coverage while you’re in school.

If you’re a resident of another state who’s coming to Hawaii to study, your current insurance plan may not cover the physician, hospital or other providers you might need to see. 

Can Someone Claim You as a Dependent?

If your parents claim you as a dependent, that impacts how you answer questions about household income and household size if you’re applying for an ACA plan or a low-cost or free government plan. 

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. It may cost you little or nothing to remain on your parent’s plan. If you’re attending school as an out-of-state student though, check with the insurance company to make sure the network of doctors and hospitals you can go to includes providers near your school. If not, you may want to purchase a plan on your own that provides coverage in Hawaii.

Sticking with Your Parents

You can stay on your parent’s health plan until you’re 26, but it may not provide the coverage you need.

What Plans Are Cheaper?

When evaluating a plan, be sure to look closely at all the costs, which include:

  • Premiums: the annual cost to have insurance, paid monthly
  • Deductible: the amount you must spend before your plan starts to contribute toward your healthcare expenses
  • Copayment: for doctor’s office visits and/or prescription drugs
  • Coinsurance: your share of a payment against a claim, which kicks in after you’ve met your deductible

More Than Premiums to Consider

If you’re shopping for a health plan, there’s more to consider than the cost of the monthly premium

What Plans Offer Better Coverage?

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? 
  • Is there prescription drug coverage?
  • Are mental health services and preventive care covered? 

What If You Skip Health Insurance Coverage?

Even though colleges in Hawaii don’t require most students to have a comprehensive health plan when they enroll, students risk incurring medical debt should they get sick or injured while they’re in school.

How to Get Covered Under Your Parent’s Plan in Hawaii

The ACA requires insurance plans to offer dependent coverage for children up to age 26. If you go to college in Hawaii and your parents live in a different state, make sure there are in-network providers near your campus.

How to Get Covered Under Your School Plan in Hawaii

The best place to get information about student health insurance requirements and opportunities for coverage is on your school’s website.

The University of Hawaii system doesn’t require students to have healthcare coverage. However, the University system offers a student health insurance plan students can purchase through the Hawaii Medical Service Association (HMSA)

Hawaii Pacific University requires undergraduate nursing students, student athletes, international students, graduate students and students living in some campus housing to have comprehensive health insurance plans that are valid in Hawaii. It doesn’t offer a school-sponsored student health plan.  

Nearly all Hawaii schools provide campus-based services at a student health center for minor health issues like flu, sprains and infections. Most don’t charge a fee for basic services as long as students have paid the medical service fee charged as part of tuition and fees.

How to Get Covered through the Affordable Care Act in Hawaii

Hawaii participates in the federal Marketplace. The 2021 monthly premiums for Hawaii ACA plans ranged from $314 to $440, depending on plan level.1 Use this calculator to check whether you qualify for a federal subsidy to pay for health insurance. Students may be added to their parent’s Obamacare plan during the annual Open Enrollment Period, or apply on their own for coverage in Hawaii. Moving to Hawaii to go to college may also qualify you to enroll during a Special Enrollment Period if you miss the Open Enrollment deadline.

Depending on your age and dependency status, you will apply with your parents or on your own.

  • Apply with parents:

If you are under age 26 you can be included on your parent’s application if they’re also applying for coverage under a Hawaii Marketplace plan. 

  • Apply on your own:

If you are over age 26 or are moving to Hawaii for school, you will apply for your own plan.

If you’re under 26 and your parents claim you as a dependent on their tax return, you are part of their household even if you’re not living at home. When the application asks for household income, include yours plus your parent’s. If you’re not claimed as a dependent on anyone’s tax return, you should include only your income. That makes it more likely that you’ll qualify for a subsidy.

How to Get Covered through Medicaid or CHIP in Hawaii

Hawaii’s Medicaid program, Med-QUEST, is open to low-income pregnant women, children and parent and caretaker relatives, adults, and those who are blind or disabled. The current income threshold is less than $14,680 for a household of one person.2

Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) coverage is available for children through the age of 18 whose family income exceeds Medicaid limits but who can’t afford insurance.

Applications for Med-QUEST and CHIP are handled via the KOLEA online application

What Are Other Options for Coverage in Hawaii?

Catastrophic health insurance plans have low premiums but high deductibles. People under the age of 30 are eligible to apply for a catastrophic plan, These plans provide essential health benefits coverage and some preventive services.

Short-term health insurance plans are not offered in Hawaii. 

Resources for Hawaii Students

Hawaii Pacific University – provides information about health insurance guidelines and campus medical services

Healthcare.gov – provides information about ACA plans, coverage, eligibility requirements and enrollment applications. 

University of Hawaii – provides information about student health insurance

Next Steps

Although most Hawaii colleges and universities don’t require students to have health insurance, it’s a wise decision to have coverage. Once you decide what’s the best health insurance coverage for you, you can focus on making sure you’ve ticked off everything else on your to-do list. Then, rest easy knowing that should any health issues arise, you’ve got it covered. 



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  1. Kaiser Family Foundation. “Average Marketplace Premiums by Metal Tier, 2018-2021.” kff.org. Accessed March 4, 2021.

  2. Benefits Website of the U.S. Government. Benefits.gov. “Hawaii Quest.” benefits.gov. Accessed March 4, 2021.