What You Need to Know
You can get insurance through your parents’ plan or buy a plan in your name.
Available plans vary significantly in costs, benefits and restrictions.
Student health plans and plans that meet Affordable Care Act requirements have specific enrollment periods, while others can be purchased year-round.
Is healthcare a concern as you head off to college? You may figure you don’t need health insurance because you’re young and don’t see doctors much. Young adults are the age group with the highest uninsured rate. But if your college or university requires medical insurance or if you want to make sure you have it, Kentucky offers you several coverage choices.
What Are Health Insurance Options for Kentucky Students?
You have several options when you’re looking for student health insurance in Kentucky. Here are a few:
- Through your school: Many colleges offer their students affordable plans, either their own or plans through an insurance company.
- Through your parents’ health plan: You can stay on your parents’ plan as long as you’re under 26.
- Health Insurance Marketplace plans: Plans that meet the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirements are available through your state or federal Marketplace.
- Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): You may be eligible for no- or low-cost health coverage through Kentucky Medicaid or KCHIP (Kentucky’s CHIP), based on your age and income.
- Catastrophic health plans: You can access a high-deductible plan that covers you for severe injuries and illnesses if you’re under 30.
- Short-term health plans: You can get basic plans that cover you for up to 36 months but aren’t ACA-compliant.
- Job-based health plans: You may get health insurance through your employer if you work.
Many colleges and universities offer their own student healthcare plan or one from an insurance company.
Why Do Kentucky Students Need Health Insurance?
The college or university you choose could require health insurance for admission. You may also have a chronic medical condition you need to manage. One in six young adults has a chronic illness or health condition.
Having insurance also protects you against catastrophic losses if you have a severe sickness or surgery, possibly leaving you with extra debts after graduation. U.S. government statistics estimate fixing a broken leg can cost up to $7,500, and spending three days in a hospital can cost $30,000.
What to Consider When Searching for Student Health Coverage in Kentucky?
These are some questions to think about.
Will You Attend School In-State or Out-of-State?
In either case, you can be covered by your parents through their Marketplace plan or job-based plan (if it covers dependents). Make sure their plan has contracted with network providers close to your school.
Can Someone Claim You as a Dependent?
If you decide to buy a Marketplace plan in your name, you won’t have access to premium subsidies if your parents claim you as a dependent.
Will You Stay on Your Parents’ Plan or Enroll in Your Own Plan?
If your parents have an insurance plan through an employer or the Marketplace, you may be able to stay on it until age 26. Your lower income could qualify you for lower premiums on your own plan through subsidies unless your parents have declared you as their dependent.
What Plans Are Cheaper?
The cost of some plans will depend on your (or your family’s) income and on what assistance is available. You might be eligible for subsidies on Marketplace plans or no- or low-cost Medicaid health coverage. Premiums for catastrophic insurance policies are also low but don’t qualify for subsidies.
What Plans Offer Better Coverage?
ACA-compliant plans typically offer the most comprehensive coverage. The law requires them to cover preexisting conditions and “essential health benefits,” including hospital care, prescription drug coverage, maternity services and mental health services.
What If You Skip Health Insurance?
Kentucky doesn’t mandate health insurance, so you won’t pay a penalty if you’re uninsured. You might save on monthly expenses but risk larger out-of-pocket bills if you need medical care. But your school might require insurance for admission, so you might not have the option anyway.
What Are Health Insurance Rules in Kentucky?
In fall 2021, Kentucky expects to revive its state-run Health Insurance Marketplace under the Kynect name after dismantling it in 2015. Until then, it will continue to rely on the federal healthcare.gov website for eligibility and enrollment functions.
Thanks to the expansion of Kentucky’s Medicaid program to non-parents or related caregivers, you can earn up to 138% (with the 5% disregard) of the federal poverty level as a single person ($17,609 in 2021) and still access Medicaid health coverage.
How Do You Get Covered Under Your Parents’ Plan in Kentucky?
Check Near You
If you’re on your parents’ plan, check that the plan has network providers near your school, whether you’re an in-state or out-of-state student.
If you’re not already on your parents’ plan, you can be added during the annual Open Enrollment Period (or during a Special Enrollment Period if you qualify). If you’re under age 26, it doesn’t matter if you no longer live with your parents or if you graduate, get married or have a child.
How Do You Get Covered Under Your School Plan in Kentucky?
Many schools offer student health plans if you’re enrolled for a certain number of credit hours. The school may fund the plans directly or work with an insurance company’s student health plan. Costs and benefits will vary by school, and costs may be charged with the school’s other fees, which lets you apply loans to your healthcare coverage. Your school’s admissions office can provide more details.
University of Kentucky students are covered by its University Health Services for a mandatory fee as part of tuition. More extensive coverage comes from an Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plan that costs $2,773 for an entire year. The University of Louisville strongly urges students to enroll in its Academic HealthPlans (AHP) arrangement. Students use Campus Health Services for routine healthcare and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield’s provider network for specialty care. The 12-month premium is $3,088. At Berea College, all students are urged to have a health insurance plan. The college offers uninsured students a non-ACA-compliant student plan for primary coverage. The premium is reflected as a health fee and costs $88 per semester, often with financial assistance.
How Do You Get Covered Through the Affordable Care Act in Kentucky?
You can buy an ACA-compliant Qualified Health Plan through your home state’s Health Insurance Marketplace (at the healthcare.gov website) or off-exchange (through certified insurance agents or brokers). Plans must be purchased through the Marketplace to be eligible for subsidies.
Your parents can add you to their plan during the plan’s Open Enrollment Period (OEP), between November 1 and December 15 each year. You can be added outside of the OEP if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period because of a life event, such as losing other health coverage.
Marketplace plans are purchased on a month-to-month basis so that you can buy one for less than a full year.
You can lower your out-of-pocket expenses with subsidies on specific Marketplace plans if you’re eligible. You can calculate your ACA subsidies as an advanced premium tax credit (APTC) or cost-sharing reductions (CSR).
How Do You Get Covered Through Medicaid or CHIP in Kentucky?
Kentucky has extended its Medicaid coverage to low-income adults who aren’t parents or caretaker relatives. If you apply for healthcare coverage through the Marketplace website at any time of year, you’ll be notified if you’re eligible for Kentucky Medicaid or KCHIP. (CHIP was created for working families with income too high for Medicaid, but with no health insurance for their children under age 19.)
What Are Other Options for Coverage in Kentucky?
Other options include catastrophic health plans, which are available through the Marketplace to those under 30. These are Qualified Health Plans that can protect you against major medical expenses. However, you may have significant out-of-pocket expenses before your coverage begins because of their high deductibles.
On short-term plans, the Kentucky Department of Insurance defaults to the federal rules that allow an initial term of up to 364 days and a total of 36 months through renewals. Plans can be purchased from licensed insurers or through licensed agents, but not through the Federal Exchange, so no subsidies are available. These plans aren’t required to follow ACA rules and can choose what to cover. They can also reject you for preexisting conditions.
What Are Resources for Kentucky Students?
You can visit Kentucky’s Health Insurance Marketplace to see if you qualify for free or low-cost coverage. Help with Medicaid enrollment is available through Kentucky’s Kynect online portal by calling (855) 306-8958 or visiting your local Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) office.
As you get ready to head off to your college or university, be sure to consider health insurance. With a variety of options available in Kentucky, you can find a plan that meets your needs.