Are you making plans for healthcare as you head off to school? Like most college students, you may think you don’t need health insurance because you rarely get sick. Young adults are the age group with the highest uninsured rate.1 But if your college or university requires medical insurance or if you want to be covered, you have several choices in Virginia.
What You Need to Know
You can get medical coverage through your parents’ plan or your own plan.
Costs and coverage can vary among the different kinds of insurance.
Enrollment periods can be limited for student health plans and those that meet Affordable Care Act requirements, while others can be available at any time.
What Are Health Insurance Options for Virginia Students?
Here are some types of student health insurance available in Virginia:
- Through your university or college: Many schools offer their students affordable plans, either their own or from insurance companies.
- Your parents’ insurance plan: By law, you can stay on your parents’ plan until you’re 26.
- Health Insurance Marketplace plans: Plans that comply with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) can be bought through the federal Marketplace.
- Through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): No- or low-cost health coverage is available through Cover Virginia, based on your age and income.
- Catastrophic health plans: You can purchase a lower-premium, high-deductible plan that covers serious accidents or illnesses if you’re under 30.
- Short-term health plans: Until July 1, 2021, you can get short-term plans of up to six months, renewable to a total of 36 months. After that, plans will have more limited terms. Plans are not ACA-compliant.
- Job-based health plans: If you’re working, your employer may offer healthcare insurance.
Why Do Virginia Students Need Health Insurance?
Your school may require you to buy its insurance plan or show proof of similar coverage. Or you may have a chronic medical condition that needs managing. One-sixth of young adults have a chronic illness or health condition.2
Medical care is expensive, and an unexpected illness or accident could put you deep in debt before you even enter the workforce. The government’s estimate3 for fixing a broken leg is up to $7,500 and $30,000 to spend three days in a hospital.
What to Consider When Searching for Student Health Coverage in Virginia?
Here are some questions to consider as you look at insurance options:
Will You Attend School In-State or Out-of-State?
Your parents’ Marketplace plan or job-based plan can cover you (if it covers dependents) no matter where you go to school. Be sure their plan has network providers close to your school, so they’re easily accessible.
Can Someone Claim You as a Dependent?
Your parents can claim you as a dependent, but if they do, you won’t be able to claim premium subsidies if you buy your own Marketplace plan.
Will You Stay on Your Parents’ Plan or Enroll in Your Own Plan?
What Plans Are Cheaper?
Your income (or that of your family) can determine if you’re eligible for subsidies on Marketplace plans or Medicaid’s free or low-cost health coverage. Catastrophic insurance policies have low premiums, but they don’t qualify for subsidies.5
What Plans Offer Better Coverage?
Plans that follow ACA requirements typically offer the most comprehensive coverage. They’re required by law to cover preexisting conditions and “essential health benefits,” including hospital care, emergency services, prescription drug coverage and mental health services.
What If You Skip Health Insurance?
Virginia doesn’t mandate health insurance, so you won’t pay a fine for not having insurance. But your school might require healthcare coverage for registration. If it doesn’t, you could save money by not paying insurance premiums. However, you risk larger out-of-pocket bills if you need medical care.
What Are Health Insurance Rules in Virginia?
After July 1, 2021, Virginia’s new legislation on short-term policies restricts the plans to three months, with no accumulated coverage of more than six months in any 12-month period. Insurers can’t issue these policies during the yearly ACA Open Enrollment Period (OEP).6
How Do You Get Covered Under Your Parents’ Plan in Virginia?
Your parents can add you to their insurance plan during the annual Open Enrollment Period (or during a Special Enrollment Period if you qualify).7 By law, plans that offer dependent child coverage have to extend that coverage to age 26. You qualify even if you don’t live with your parents or if you graduate, get married or have a child.8
Check Your Network
If you’re insured on your parents’ plan, be sure it has network providers near your school, especially if you’re an out-of-state student.
How Do You Get Covered Under Your School Plan in Virginia?
Many schools offer student health insurance plans to undergraduate students enrolled for a minimum number of credit hours. Plans may be funded directly by the school or through a contract with an insurance company. Costs and benefits will vary by school. Costs may be added to other school fees so you can pay for them through financial aid. The school’s admissions office will have more details.9
The University of Virginia at Charlottesville requires all students to have health insurance coverage. Its Department of Student Health and Wellness offers services to all registered students who have paid the $730 annual student health fee found in the comprehensive fees that accompany tuition. Student Health and Wellness provides primary care and helps you get specialized care if needed. Paying that fee also makes you eligible to purchase the Aetna Student Health plan for $2,980 per year if you don’t have other coverage.10
William & Mary students can use the Student Health Center for a full range of primary care by paying a $306 Health and Wellness fee as part of the annual General Fee. All full-time undergraduate students must also have health insurance coverage. The university offers the W&M Student Insurance Plan, which complies with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and is underwritten by the UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company. The annual premium of $2,490 will be billed to you unless you can prove other adequate coverage.11
Virginia Tech encourages students to have health insurance, but doesn’t require it. The university offers a plan through Aetna Student Health Insurance for $3,173 per year.12 A $16 Health Service Fee per credit hour and per semester gives students access to routine medical services at the on-campus Schiffert Health Center. You are responsible for any charges from an outside healthcare provider.
Some universities and colleges offer their own student healthcare plans or plans through insurance companies.
How Do You Get Covered Through the Affordable Care Act in Virginia?
You can buy an ACA-compliant individual plan through the federal government’s Health Insurance Marketplace or off-exchange from insurers, agents, brokers or navigators.13 A state-run Marketplace is expected to be open by 2023.14
You can be added to your parents’ plan during the annual Open Enrollment Period, which runs between November 1 and January 15. If you miss that period, you can still be added if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period triggered by a qualifying life event like losing other health insurance. The 2022 Open Enrollment Period begins November 1, 2021 and ends on January 15, 2022.
Since Marketplace plans run month-to-month, you can get coverage for less than a full year.
Specific Marketplace plans may let you lower your out-of-pocket costs with subsidies such as an advanced premium tax credit (APTC) or cost-sharing reductions (CSR).15 About 88% of Virginians applying for these plans qualify for help.16 You can buy ACA plans outside of the Marketplace, but you will lose access to subsidies.
How Do You Get Covered Through Medicaid or CHIP in Virginia?
The Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) administers the state’s Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Most Virginians covered by Medicaid are served through managed care programs. You can access low- and no-cost health insurance at any time of the year if you meet certain financial conditions. Check your eligibility by using the screening tool on the Am I Eligible page.
Virginia expanded its Medicaid coverage under the ACA in January 2019, giving access to low-income adults without dependent children. This coverage is called New Health Coverage for Adults. You may be eligible if you make less than $1,469 per month.
If you’re under 19, you might qualify under CHIP, which in Virginia is called Family Access to Medical Insurance Security (FAMIS). It covers people under age 19 who are uninsured and whose family income is too high for Medicaid. You also might qualify under your family’s Medicaid coverage through the FAMIS Plus program.
What Are Other Options for Coverage in Virginia?
A catastrophic health plan may be an option for you if you’re under 30. These lower-premium Qualified Health Plans are available through the Marketplace.17 You may have large out-of-pocket expenses before your coverage begins because of their high deductibles. The plans will cover three annual primary care office visits and preventive care before the deductible is met.18
Virginia offers short-term plans with six-month terms renewable up to a total of 36 months. After July 1, 2021, only three-month policies can be sold, with no more than six months of coverage during any 12 months. These plans don’t meet ACA requirements.19 Insurance carriers can cover who and what they want, and they can reject you for any reason, including for preexisting conditions.
Short-term health insurance can be purchased from the insurer or through a licensed insurance agent. Premiums may be low, but be sure you’re getting at least the minimum coverage you need.
What Are Resources for Virginia Students?
If you decide to buy health insurance, look at the many healthcare options available in Virginia, so you can buy the plan that fits you best before heading off to school.