What You Need to Know
You can get medical insurance through your parents’ plan or one of your own.
Different kinds of insurance offer varying costs and benefits.
There are specific enrollment periods for student health plans and plans that meet Affordable Care Act requirements, while others can be available year-round.
As you leave home for your college or university, are you thinking about healthcare? Like most college students, you probably feel you don’t need health insurance because you don’t visit doctors that often. Young adults have the highest uninsured rate.1 But if your school requires health insurance coverage or if you want to be covered, Minnesota offers you several choices.
What Are Health Insurance Options for Minnesota Students?
Here are some of the student health insurance policies available in Minnesota:
- Through your college or university: Your school may offer its own affordable student plan or one through an insurance provider.
- Your parents’ insurance plan: Legally, you can stay on their plan until you’re 26.
- Health Insurance Marketplace plans: You can buy plans that comply with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) through Minnesota’s state-run health insurance marketplace, MNsure.
- Medicaid (which includes the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP): State-based free or low-cost health insurance may be available through MNsure, based on your age and income.
- Catastrophic health plans: You can get a lower-premium plan with a high deductible covering serious accidents or sickness if you’re under 30.
- Short-term health plans: You can get short-term plans covering a maximum of 185 out of 555 days.
- Job-based health plans: If you’re employed, your job may provide medical coverage.
If your parents’ healthcare plan insures you, check that it has network providers near your school, especially if your school is out-of-state.
Why Do Minnesota Students Need Health Insurance?
You may be required to buy your school’s student health plan if you can’t show proof of comparable coverage. Or, like one-sixth of young adults, you may have a chronic medical condition you need to manage. 2
Without insurance, one serious accident or illness could mean huge medical bills, which could follow you through or even after college. For example, government estimates3 say that it costs up to $7,500 to fix a broken leg or $30,000 for a three-day hospital stay.
What Should You Consider When Searching for Student Health Coverage in Minnesota?
Here are some questions to think about as you look at insurance options:
Will You Attend School In-State or Out-of-State?
If your parents’ job-based plan or Marketplace plan covers dependents, it can cover you no matter where you go to school. Check that their plan has network providers near your school so that you can get in-network rates for services.
Can Someone Claim You as a Dependent?
Your parents can claim you as a dependent, but if they do, you can’t get premium subsidies if you buy your own Marketplace plan.
Will You Stay on Your Parents’ Plan or Enroll in Your Own Plan?
By law, you can stay on your parents’ Marketplace or employment plan until age 26 if the plan covers dependents.4 On your own plan, your lower income could qualify you for lower premiums through subsidies.
What Plans Are Cheaper?
Health insurance costs vary depending on the coverage you seek. But there are cheaper as well. Your family’s or your income will determine your eligibility for Medicaid’s no- or low-cost health coverage or subsidies on Marketplace plans. Catastrophic plans have low premiums, but they don’t qualify for subsidies.5
What Plans Offer Better Coverage?
Health policies that follow ACA requirements typically offer the best coverage. They must cover preexisting conditions and “10 essential health benefits,” including hospital care, emergency services, prescription drugs and mental health services.
What If You Skip Health Insurance?
Minnesota doesn’t mandate health insurance, so you won’t pay a fine if you don’t have any. If your school doesn’t require health insurance, you could save the monthly cost of premiums, but if you need medical care, you risk paying large out-of-pocket bills.
What Are Health Insurance Rules in Minnesota?
If young adults have access to coverage through their employer in Minnesota, they can’t stay on their parent’s health insurance plan until they turn 26. American Indians who receive services from their Indian Health Service (IHS), Tribal, or Urban Indian healthcare facility are also eligible for MNsure, Medicaid, and MinnesotaCare programs.6
How Do You Get Covered Under Your Parents’ Plan in Minnesota?
You can be added to your parents’ Marketplace insurance plan during the annual Open Enrollment Period (or during a Special Enrollment Period if you’re eligible).7 Legally, a plan has to cover you to age 26 if it has dependent child coverage. You qualify even if you no longer live with your parents or if you graduate, get married or have a baby.8
How Do You Get Covered Under Your School Plan in Minnesota?
If schools require insurance, many will offer cost-effective student health insurance plans to full-time undergraduates who carry a minimum number of credit hours. Costs and coverage will vary by school. Some schools add those costs to your student account so that you can pay for them with your financial aid. Your school’s admissions office can provide the details.9
University of Minnesota Twin Cities undergraduates pay a Student Life, Health, and Wellbeing fee of $422.48 per year covering comprehensive health care services at the Boynton Health Facility. If you are carrying six or more credits, you will be enrolled automatically in the university-sponsored Student Health Benefit Plan (SHBP), at $1,272 per semester,10 unless you show proof of other insurance. Network and claims administration is provided by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.
Carleton College provides medical services through its Student Health and Counseling (SHAC) program and will help connect students with local care when appropriate. School fees include an annual Student Activity Fee of $384.11 Students must have health insurance and must opt in or opt out (waive coverage) each year. If you can’t provide proof of other health insurance, a yearly premium of $2,166 will be added to your tuition bill for Carleton College’s Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) administered by the Wellfleet Group.
Macalester College’s students receive primary medical care at the Laurie Hamre Center for Health & Wellness, no matter their insurance. The school requires all students to provide proof of ACA-compliant health insurance. You will be billed $2,512 each year for the Student Injury and Sickness Insurance Plan, administered by UnitedHealthcare StudentResources, unless you waive it.
Some colleges and universities offer student healthcare plans of their own or coordinate with private insurance companies.
How Do You Get Covered Through the Affordable Care Act in Minnesota?
Your parents can add you to their ACA plan during the annual Open Enrollment Period, starting November 1 and ending December 22, which is later than in most states. You can still be added later if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period for reasons like losing other health coverage.
MNsure is Minnesota’s state-run Health Insurance Marketplace, where you can buy an ACA-compliant individual plan and apply for financial help to lower your premium. You can also buy ACA plans off-exchange from insurers, certified agents, brokers and certified navigators. You can compare plans and estimate costs on the MNsure website.
Since Marketplace plans run month-to-month, you can buy less than a full policy year’s coverage.
You can lower your out-of-pocket costs by qualifying for subsidies such as an advanced premium tax credit (APTC) or cost-sharing reductions (CSR), available with specific Marketplace plans.12 About 56% of Minnesota residents who apply qualify for APTCs.13 You can’t get subsidies if you buy ACA plans outside of MNsure.
How Do You Get Covered Through Medicaid or CHIP in Minnesota?
Medicaid provides coverage to Minnesota residents with low income or disability through the Minnesota Department of Human Services.
Minnesota’s Medicaid program is called Medical Assistance (MA). Your income, age, and who lives with you will determine whether you pay for services. In 2014, Minnesota implemented the Medicaid expansion under the ACA to include almost all childless nonelderly adults earning less than 133% (plus 5% disregarded in certain situations) of the federal poverty guidelines.14 If your income exceeds the limit, you still may be able to get coverage through the “spend-down” process that considers your medical expenses.
Minnesota has chosen to use federal Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) funds to expand specific segments of its Medical Assistance program, rather than create a separate CHIP program.15
You can register for an online account and apply through MNsure to check your eligibility. You can also call the Minnesota Health Care Programs (MHCP) Member Help Desk at (800) 657-3739.
What Are Other Options for Coverage in Minnesota?
If you’re under 30, you may want to consider catastrophic coverage. Although these lower-premium plans are available through the Marketplace,16 they don’t have to cover all ACA-required benefits. Because of the high deductible, you may have to pay for most services out-of-pocket before your coverage begins. Your plan does cover preventive care and three primary care office visits per year before the deductible is met.
MinnesotaCare is a program for adults earning up to 200% of the FPL, or $25,520 annually in 2021 for an individual.17 It is separate from Medicaid. Under the ACA, states could set up a Basic Health Program (BHP) for some low-income residents who don’t qualify for other programs. Minnesota is one of two states that did. Benefits include at least the ACA’s ten essential health benefits. Its small monthly premium is waived for children under age 21, American Indians and Alaska Natives and other groups.
Short-term health plans, or limited-duration plans, are intended to bridge a gap in your coverage when you’re between jobs or policies. In Minnesota, insurance carriers can sell short-term plans with a length of 185 days or less. While they can’t be renewed, you can buy another short-term plan for a maximum of 365 days (12 months) in a 555-day (18-month) period.18
Short-term health insurance offers minimum health coverage. It generally doesn’t cover preexisting conditions, and insurers can deny you coverage. In Minnesota, your premium can’t be based on health status or gender. Short-term plans cost less than ACA policies, but check the list of exclusions on any plan you’re considering.
What Are Resources for Minnesota Students?
Your school’s admissions office will be able to help you. You can get information on nonschool plans through MNsure’s Customer Service Guide or the Department of Human Services.
If you decide you want health insurance, look at the various healthcare options available in Minnesota, so you can choose the best plan for you before you head off to school.