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Iowa Student Health Insurance Options | Health Care Coverage and Plans

Updated on: March 28th, 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

Even if you’re young and healthy, insurance coverage can be important in emergencies.

If you’re on a budget, a high-deductible plan, short-term policy, or Medicaid may be a good solution.

You can access the federal Health Insurance Marketplace at HealthCare.gov.

What Are Health Insurance Options for Iowa Students?

If you’re heading off to a college or university in the Hawkeye State, have you made plans for health insurance? Maybe you’re wondering why you need insurance if you’re young and healthy. But even as a student, you should know your choices for healthcare coverage in Iowa. Learn more about options and enrollment.

Why Do Iowa Students Need Health Insurance?

Many younger people don’t think they need healthcare coverage. The U.S. Census reported in 2019 that 14.3% of 19-year-olds on average were uninsured.1 But insurance protects you in case of illness and accidents. A medical emergency could leave you with big debts that follow you after graduation. In addition, many schools require health insurance coverage in order for you to enroll. 

If you’re on a tight budget, lower-cost options include catastrophic or short-term plans, or Medicaid if you qualify. If you have a preexisting condition such as obesity or high blood pressure, you won’t have to pay extra for coverage or be rejected under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

What to Consider When Searching for Student Health Coverage in Iowa?

Are you an Iowa resident? In-state students may have an easier time staying on their parents’ insurance than out-of-state students. Here are a few more factors to look at:

  • Can you be claimed as a dependent? If your parent or guardian is claiming you as a dependent, you can stay on their health plan if you’re under 26 years old.
  • Will you stay on your parents’ plan or enroll in your own? You could save money on your parents’ plan, but you only qualify for ACA subsidies if you buy your own plan. 
  • Which plans are cheaper? It depends on what medical services you expect to use. If you need regular doctor visits or prescriptions, you might pick a plan with more benefits and a higher per-month cost. If you only need coverage for emergencies, look at lower-cost plans that don’t cover as much. 
  • Which plans offer the best coverage? Make sure that the plan you choose offers the best coverage for your needs. Plans that follow ACA guidelines tend to be the most comprehensive, since they’re required to offer certain benefits.
  • Should you skip health insurance? You’d save money on monthly premium costs, but you could end up paying a lot more after a serious illness or injury. 
  • What are health insurance rules in Iowa? There isn’t a state penalty for being uninsured. Iowa allows 364-day short-term plans, which is longer than in some other states. Short-term plans in Iowa offer benefits not found in other states, including some preventive and prescription drug coverage. 

Pay for Coverage with Loans

If you get health insurance through your school, you can use your student loans to pay the monthly costs.

How Do You Get Covered Under Your Parents’ Plan in Iowa?

If you’re younger than 26, you can be covered under your parents’ plan. You can stay on your parents’ coverage whether you’re an in-state or out-of-state student. If you’re from out-of-state, make sure your parents’ plan covers network providers near your school, so you pay in-network rates for services. 

If your parents’ plan is through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace, they can add you during the annual Open Enrollment Period or during a Special Enrollment Period if you qualify. If their plan is through an employer, they can add you during that plan’s Open Enrollment Period or Special Enrollment Period

How Do You Get Covered Under Your School Plan in Iowa?

Check if your school requires health insurance for enrollment. Some schools offer their own health plans, or provide coverage through a private insurer. You can apply your student loans toward these costs. 

The University of Iowa requires health insurance. It offers a Student Health Insurance Plan to students enrolled in five or more credit hours per semester. The plan offers national coverage for undergraduates at $275 a month.

Iowa State University’s Student and Scholar Health Insurance Program offers coverage from Wellmark and Delta Dental to all undergraduate and graduate students who don’t have an assistantship and are enrolled in five or more credit hours per semester. Dental coverage is separate. Students pay a $1,884 premium annually. 

How Do You Get Covered Through the Affordable Care Act in Iowa?

ACA-compliant plans must cover “essential benefits” like hospitalization, mental health services and prescription drugs, and they can’t charge you more for preexisting conditions. 

You can buy an ACA plan through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace or call (844) 884-0736. You can also work with a licensed insurance agent

If you earn 400% or less of the federal poverty level, you can potentially apply for subsidies that lower your monthly costs.. 

How Do You Get Covered Through Medicaid or CHIP in Iowa?

Medicaid offers health coverage to residents with low income or disability. Most Medicaid members in Iowa get services through the IA Health Link program. The Iowa Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), called the Healthy and Well Kids in Iowa program or Hawki, is for children up to age 19 whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. Apply for either program through the Iowa Department of Human Services portal to find out if you’re eligible. 

Public Healthcare Options

You might qualify for state healthcare assistance from Medicaid or CHIP.

What Are Other Options for Coverage in Iowa?

If you’re under 30 or qualify for an exemption, you can apply for a catastrophic health plan. These typically carry low monthly premiums with a high deductible, meaning you’ll pay more out-of-pocket for services. Their limited coverage may be best for emergencies. 

Short-term policies in Iowa run for 364 days. Unlike in other states, Iowa requires coverage for prescription drugs as well as emergency room care and limited preventive care. Insurers can still reject you for preexisting conditions or refuse to cover those conditions for a period of time. 

What Are Resources for Iowa Students?

The federal Marketplace offers more information about your healthcare options.2 You can also check the Iowa Department of Human Services site for information.

Next Steps

If you’ve decided that you need health insurance, compare your options and pick the plan that’s best for your health needs and your budget. Make sure to sign up so you’re covered before the school year starts.



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  1. Conway, Douglas. “Uninsured Rates Highest For Young Adults Aged 19 to 34.” U.S. Census Bureau, October 26, 2020 (accessed March 8, 2021).

  2. U.S. Government Website for the Federal Health Insurance Marketplace. “In school? Student health plans & other options.” healthcare.gov (accessed March 9, 2021).