A college student's guide to the importance of health care, options for health insurance, and other healthcare resources
The college experience is full of exciting chances to try new things and discover your path in life, from living in a dorm to meeting other students with the same passions and curiosities as you. Even those taking classes online will grow in their skills, but these new learning opportunities may make an already busy schedule even more challenging.
No matter how packed your schedule becomes, letting health take the backseat isn’t ideal for a student in this phase of life. You must plan for your wellness to avoid having fewer options when illness or injury strikes, not to mention the opportunity to practice good preventive health behaviors.
Even if you’ve been attending college for some time, it’s not too late to set a course of good health. Read this college student healthcare guide for helpful wellness tips for your post-secondary education.
Navigating health care as a student
Making sure you can access health services when needed can be tricky at first, especially if it’s your first time sorting these things out. Health insurance plans available to you depend on your status as a dependent or independent student. You can browse through many available plans on the federal Health Insurance Marketplace, also known as the Marketplace.
As a dependent
According to the IRS, a dependent is either a qualifying child or relative of the taxpayer who provided less than 50% of their own support during the tax year, among other qualifiers. Options available to dependents include the following.
If you’re younger than 26:
- You can apply with your parents or even be included in your parent’s health insurance policy. Just be sure their insurance has participating providers and hospitals where you attend college.
- You can buy your own policy. This option may be the best choice if you attend school out of the state and have the closest healthcare providers not included in your parents’ plan.
- You can buy a student health insurance plan through your school, if available.
If you’re older than 26:
If you are still a dependent for tax purposes, you may be able to get on the same Marketplace plan as your parents but under your own policy. Any job-based health insurance your parents have won’t be available to you. You may still qualify for school-based health insurance and get your own plan on the Marketplace or through your own job.
As an independent
Independents living apart from their parents (in-state or out-of-state) should file their own health insurance application and have their student health plan. The insurance provider would consider your income alone.
If you live with your parents, you would still get your own policy, but you may need to include your entire household’s income, especially if you’re under 21.
The importance of health care for students
Attending college is a significant life event that will present you with new challenges, adventures, and potential health risks. Making informed, proactive choices around your wellness is the best way to prevent health issues from impacting your experience in higher education.
Mental health and stress
The stress of a new residence and trying to succeed in college can overwhelm even students with no history of mental health challenges. Students who experience excessive worry, unmanageable stress, or feelings of depression should seek help from campus mental health professionals, as well as turn to student groups to find support in dealing with the obstacles of college life.
Those with an existing mental health diagnosis should have an action plan for how to manage life in a college environment with new challenges. Stay in touch with your primary mental health practitioner, if you have one, and develop healthy relationships on campus that can bolster your mental wellness.
Don’t turn to self-medication for anxiety, focus, or depression issues. While it’s popular for students to misuse prescription drugs like Adderall to help enhance performance in the short term, there are risks. Using these drugs without a prescription and a healthcare provider’s guidance is dangerous and can lead to substance use issues. It may also mask other issues that should be uniquely addressed and might not be resolved without a professional’s help.
People get sick. Whether it’s the flu, an ear infection, or strep throat, promptly treating these conditions can keep them from becoming more serious. If your college has a wellness office, make an appointment with a healthcare provider for an evaluation and treatment for general illnesses and infections. Schools may have a dedicated health center to get you treated quickly and back to class without spreading it to others.
Burns, cuts, sprains, strains, and fractures are just a few of the injuries that can happen on or off campus. Your college wellness office or health center can help stabilize an injury and advise you on how to seek care for a more urgent matter. It can be hard to drive yourself to an emergency room with an injury, so having this support team close to campus can also help you get help safely and not injure yourself further.
Even if you’ve never had sexual relations (or plan to), knowing what risks exist and how to protect yourself and your partners is always a good idea. Unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and intimate partner violence are just a few of the situations that students can find themselves in if unprepared.
Having someone to talk to about your questions and concerns is vital. Guidance counselors at the school are trained to advise you on these issues and point you in the direction of a healthcare provider that can address sexual concerns young adults often have in a college environment.
If you are sexually active or will be in the future, don’t delay seeking resources at the school. You may get access to free and low-cost birth control, including Plan B. If your school doesn’t offer these resources, connect with the local community health center or your healthcare provider. Insurance plans purchased through the Marketplace are required to cover birth control.
The basics of health insurance
One way to ensure you can get care when needed is to have a health insurance policy. While it won’t cover the entire cost, it can help you plan out your smaller healthcare expenses and kick in when you need it most.
The premium is the price you pay for insurance, usually billed monthly. You pay for it whether or not you use your insurance. It’s similar to a premium for other types of insurance, such as car insurance or renter’s insurance. You must continue paying the premium every month to maintain insurance coverage; if at any point you fail to pay, you could lose coverage from your insurance plan.
Once you start your health insurance plan, you usually have to pay a deductible before insurance helps pay for certain medical services. For example, if an insurance policy has a $3,000 deductible, you will pay $3,000 for all services or costs covered under that policy out of your own pocket.
After you’ve met your deductible, your insurance starts to help pay for healthcare costs, at which point you may owe a copay or coinsurance amount. Some costs, such as certain preventive care services, may not be subject to a deductible at all. The insurance company will pay for some or all of these, even if you pay for other things to meet that $3,000 deductible.
After your deductible has been met and insurance starts paying out, you may be responsible for a portion of each additional charge. The coinsurance amount is the percentage you pay after your insurance company pays itstheir share. The terms of “who pays what” are typically explained as a ratio. So, if you have an 80/20 insurance plan, your insurance pays 80% of the costs, while you pay 20%. A 70/30 plan has the insurance paying 70%, while you pay 30% of the bill, and so on.
Unlike coinsurance, which is a percentage, a copay is a flat fee often charged for certain health services. For example, a $50 copay for specialist visits would mean paying $50 when you see a specialist, such as a dermatologist or an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor. Copays may be printed on the insurance card you present when the visit, so the staff knows what you should pay before being seen.
You may have to pay a copay before and after you’ve met your deductible. However, copays may not cover everything you’ve done during a doctor’s visit. Blood tests, x-rays, or receiving medicine at the office may be charged separately as an office visit fee. It’s important to check with your insurance plan to find out how much your copays will be.
Depending on your insurance plan, you’ll generally want to choose a healthcare provider who is “in-network” or part of the group of healthcare providers that have an agreement with your insurance company. “In-network” providers are those that have agreed to accept a negotiated rate of payment from the insurance company, which is usually lower than their regular rates. For example, in an 80/20 plan, the insurance company would pay 80% for “in-network” doctors but may only pay 50% or even lower for “out-of-network” ones.
Your insurance may even say they won’t pay for any services you get from an “out-of-network” healthcare provider, so checking the network status before you go there is essential. Most insurance companies list their network providers on their websites or in the packet of info you get when you first sign up.
We may think of only going to the healthcare provider when we’re sick or have an injury, but you can get an entire list of services to help prevent or detect problems before they become serious. These may include regular physical exams, bloodwork, or vaccinations. Preventive care may also include screenings for cancer and other health conditions, depending on your plan.
Group plans are a type of insurance plan typically offered by an organization, such as a university, employer, or trade association. Because the risk of healthcare costs is spread among everyone under the plan, individuals may pay less for their plan than if they were to buy it independently. Group health insurance plans may also provide additional benefits, such as wellness programs and access to a select network of healthcare providers.
Health insurance options for college students
Do you need health insurance coverage but aren’t sure where to find it? College students have many choices for where they can get health insurance.
Parent’s health insurance
If your parents claim you as a dependent on their insurance plan, you can get coverage through them. Whether it’s an employer-sponsored or private insurance plan, as long as you are a dependent listed on that plan, you can access the benefits.
ACA Marketplace Plan
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) created an online insurance marketplace, also known as the Health Insurance Marketplace or simply “the Marketplace,” where individuals can shop for health insurance plans. It stays open from November 1st through around December 15th every year, with insurance set to start January 1st. You may also qualify for a different enrollment period based on certain life events, such as losing health insurance coverage, getting married, having a baby, or moving to a new area.
These health insurance plans must meet ACA standards, such as offering free or discounted preventive health, and won’t deny you for pre-existing health conditions. Prices vary, but you may qualify for reduced premiums based on your income.
College student healthcare
Not all colleges offer affordable healthcare insurance for college students, but those that do may require it for all students who attend. You may want to check if your school offers a health insurance plan by calling and asking or searching their website. Some colleges and universities have student health centers that act as small clinics with urgent care providers that can treat minor illnesses and injuries at little to no cost.
Independent students and those from low-income families may make too little to qualify for plans on the ACA Marketplace. In these cases, students are encouraged to seek assistance from their local Health and Human Services (HHS) department. Medicaid covers medical care in similar ways as commercial insurance, but there are some differences.
Medicaid is a government-funded program that offers healthcare coverage that is often more affordable than commercial insurance. Medicaid programs often provide coverage to individuals who might not be able to afford commercial insurance.
If you qualify, you may even get help with unpaid medical bills you’ve received in the past few months. Pregnant women and those younger than 19 may be eligible for Medicaid, even if their income is higher than the income threshold. Eligibility for Medicaid varies by state.
College student healthcare resources
Looking for additional tools and tips for navigating health care in college? Consider these websites.
- Healthcare.Gov health insurance tips
- College vaccinations guide
- What to pack in a college first aid kit
- CDC’s college guide to health and safety for women
College student healthcare FAQ
How long can college students stay on a parent’s insurance?
If the student is a dependent, they can stay on their parent’s insurance as long as they allow them to or until they turn 26. If the student is not claimed as a dependent under their parent’s plan, they may need their own plan as an independent adult.
What are common college illnesses?
College students get sick with the same diseases the rest of adults do, but some are more likely to occur in a communal living setting. Princeton lists some common illnesses that college students may experience:
- Colds and flu
- Conjunctivitis (“pink eye“)
- Stomach aches
Without treatment, college students are more likely to drop out, abuse substances, and commit suicide. According to the 2021 Center for Collegiate Mental Health Annual Report, college students are increasingly experiencing and reporting mental health issues.What is the biggest health concern for college students? ›
Stress, anxiety, and depression are not uncommon among college students.Can I stay on my parents insurance if I file taxes independently? ›
If you file your taxes independently, you're still allowed to stay on your parent's health insurance plan until age 26 (or the age limit in your state). Your ability to stay on your parents' health insurance is only based on your age and is separate from your tax filing status.Can college students get Medicaid in Michigan? ›
Medicaid if You Are 19 or Older. If you are 19 or older, you may qualify for Medicaid if: Your family has low income, regardless of whether you have a disability, or. You have a disability and low resources and your family has low income (this way of qualifying is called "SSI-related Medicaid").How can college students improve their health? ›
- Avoid walking to class in flip flops. ...
- Keep backpacks from being too heavy. ...
- Quit smoking. ...
- Don't drink and drive. ...
- Make sure you have emergency contacts. ...
- Wear sunscreen. ...
- Ensure that your medical insurance covers physicians in the area.
“Students who take the time and effort to invest in their holistic well-being—physical, emotional, spiritual, and social—are more likely to reach their personal and academic potential,” Fiala said.What is the #1 leading health problem? ›
Heart disease and stroke still the leading causes of death for both U.S. men and women.Why do college students get sick so often? ›
The combination of stress, lack of getting enough sleep, and being around lots of people at college can cause students to get sick more frequently. When you are sick, much of your energy will be used to fight the illness.When should I stop claiming my child as a dependent? ›
Your child must be under age 19 or, if a full-time student, under age 24. There's no age limit if your child is permanently and totally disabled. Do they live with you? Your child must live with you for more than half the year, but several exceptions apply.Can my parents kick me off their health insurance? ›
Yes, your parents can kick you off their health insurance. Once you turn 18, your health care bills are ultimately your responsibility, and so is having health insurance coverage.
If you claimed yourself, and your parents claimed you, one of you has to make the correction to the tax return. After that return is processed, the other party may file their return next. If you file your tax return before your parents file their tax returns, their return will get rejected for the dependent exemption.What is the income limit for Healthy Michigan Plan? ›
See if you qualify for the Healthy Michigan Plan.
Are age 19-64 years. Have income at or below 133% of the federal poverty level* (about $18,000 for a single person or $37,000 for a family of four) Do not qualify for or are not enrolled in Medicare. Do not qualify for or are not enrolled in other Medicaid programs.
Eligibility levels for parents are presented as a percentage of the 2023 FPL for a family of three, which is $24,860. Eligibility limits for single adults without dependent children are presented as a percentage of the 2023 FPL for an individual, which is $14,580.What is the monthly income limit for Medicaid in Michigan? ›
|2023 Michigan Medicaid Long-Term Care Eligibility for Seniors|
|Type of Medicaid||Single||Married (both spouses applying)|
|Medicaid Waivers / Home and Community Based Services||$2,742 / month†||$3,000|
|Regular Medicaid / Aged Blind and Disabled||$1,215 / month||$3,000|
- Be physically active every day.
- Eat plenty of vegetables and some fruit every day.
- Get enough sleep and eat breakfast.
- Switch to low-fat (1% or less) milk, cheese, and yogurt.
- Do something healthy every day that makes you feel good.
- Drink water instead of soda or juice.
- Medical. It's important to establish and maintain a relationship with a primary care provider who will partner with you to help you understand your specific medical risks and assess your general state of health. ...
- Fitness. ...
- Sleep. ...
- Nutrition. ...
- Mindfulness. ...
- Social Wellness.
Exercise can help with your sleep and improve your overall fitness. Students' relationships with exercise can vary. Some exercise to relieve stress and prioritize fitting it in even when they're busy, whereas others let it be one of the first things to drop off when they start to feel overwhelmed.
For college students, being away from home and the stress of separation from family and having to care for themselves in a new setting can be the perfect storm for the development of mental health problems.What causes anxiety in college students? ›
Stress and anxiety in college students can be caused by several factors. Some common causes of anxiety include transitions, academic pressure, peer pressure, new social settings, and unmet expectations. Knowing what is causing student anxiety makes identifying coping skills easier.What percent of college students struggle with mental health? ›
How Many College Students Experience Mental Health Conditions? The American College Health Association's (ACHA) Spring 2022 National College Health Assessment surveyed over 54,000 undergraduate students. It revealed that approximately 77% were experiencing moderate to serious psychological distress.
- Physical Activity and Nutrition.
- Overweight and Obesity.
- Substance Abuse.
- Mental Health.
- Injury and Violence.
- Environmental Quality.
- Ten Factors that. Affect. Your Health Status.
- Quality of the Environment.
- Random Events.
- Health Care.
- Behaviors You Choose.
- Quality of your Relationships.
- Decisions You Make.
- Social anxiety, general anxiety, test anxiety, or panic attacks.
- Family expectations or problems.
- Depression, lack of energy or motivation, hopelessness, being overwhelmed, low self-esteem, homesickness, loneliness.
- Relationship difficulties (emotional and physical aspects of intimate relationships)
This article states several important statistics on college students' mental health in America. Most notably, this article finds that Penn has the most depressed student body in United States, topping a list of 50 other schools in the country.What is the most common diagnosis among college students? ›
|Characteristic||Percentage of respondents|
|Cold/virus or other respiratory illness||32.2%|
|Flu (influenza) or flu-like illness||9.7%|
|Orthopedic injury (broken bone, fracture, sprain, bursitis, tendinitis, or ligament injury)||9.4%|
|Urinary tract infection||8.9%|
- - Don't wash your dishes where you brush your teeth. ...
- - Don't share towels. ...
- - Disinfect that sweat. ...
- - Don't share glasses, water bottles or utensils. ...
- - Ditch your friends when they're sick. ...
- - Bring a thermometer. ...
- - Keep hand sanitizer handy. ...
- - Watch your feet.
Fluids are your friend.
Drink plenty of water and tea to flush out your system and consider adding in EmergenC or Gatorade for extra electrolytes to wipe out bad bacteria. For food, nothing competes with soup when you're sick. A simple bone broth can help bolster your immune system.
Some professors insist on 100% attendance. But most understand that there are times when students benefit from skipping class. If you're sick, for example, you should stay home. Or if you have an important job interview, most professors would recommend prioritizing that over a single lecture.Is it better to not claim college student as dependent? ›
If your income is high enough to lose out on the dependent exemption for a child attending college, your family may benefit from opting not to claim your college student as a dependent. By this point, your child is over the age of 17, so the child tax credit is not available.Should my college student file his own taxes? ›
An unmarried dependent student must file a tax return if his or her earned or unearned income exceeds certain limits. To find these limits, refer to "Dependents" under "Who Must File" in Publication 501, Dependents, Standard Deduction and Filing Information.
Benefits of Claiming a College Student as a Dependent
In addition to tax credits, deductions like the student loan interest deduction may be available. Altogether, these tax benefits have the potential to save you thousands of dollars, which can in turn help pay for your child's education.
You can vote and be called for jury service. You can buy and drink alcohol in a bar. You can get married, enter a civil partnership or live together without parental consent.How long can your parents keep you on their insurance? ›
If your parent's plan covers dependents, you usually can get added to or stay on your parent's health plan until you turn 26 years old. You can join or remain on a parent's plan even if you are: Married. A parent.Why do you get kicked off parents insurance at 26? ›
Depending on the type of insurance plan, 26-year-olds could lose coverage at the end of their birthday month or at the end of the calendar year. This cutoff is because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which only requires health insurance providers to cover a dependent on a parent's plan until the age of 26.Can the IRS come after me for my parents debt? ›
If you don't file taxes for a deceased person, the IRS can take legal action by placing a federal lien against the Estate. This essentially means you must pay the federal taxes before closing any other debts or accounts. If not, the IRS can demand the taxes be paid by the legal representative of the deceased.Can I claim my 20 year old college student as a dependent? ›
To meet the qualifying child test, your child must be younger than you and either younger than 19 years old or be a "student" younger than 24 years old as of the end of the calendar year. There's no age limit if your child is "permanently and totally disabled" or meets the qualifying relative test.Can I claim my full-time college student as a dependent? ›
However, to claim a college student as a dependent on your taxes, the Internal Revenue Service has determined that the qualifying child or qualifying relative must: Be younger than the taxpayer (or spouse if MFJ) and: Be under age 19, Under age 24 and a full-time student for at least five months of the year.How does health help students? ›
Healthy students learn better because their physical, emotional and mental wellbeing is balanced. Happy students can focus better, and when their overall health is supported by exercise, good nutrition and a supportive emotional environment, they are less stressed.Why is healthcare so important? ›
Access to comprehensive, quality health care services is important for promoting and maintaining health, preventing and managing disease, reducing unnecessary disability and premature death, and achieving health equity for all Americans. Why is Access to Health Care Important?Why is learning about health care important? ›
High-quality health care helps prevent diseases and improve quality of life. Healthy People 2030 focuses on improving health care quality and making sure all people get the health care services they need. Helping health care providers communicate more effectively can help improve health and well-being.
The relationship between education and health is never a simple one. Poor health not only results from lower educational attainment, it can also cause educational setbacks and interfere with schooling. Health conditions, disabilities, and unhealthy behaviors can all have an effect on educational outcomes.What are the 5 importance of good health? ›
Studies indicate that the following five factors make the biggest difference in overall health and wellness: 1) diet; 2) rest; 3) exercise; 4) posture; and 5) avoiding the use of alcohol, drugs and tobacco.How does school affect students health? ›
Schools play a critical role in promoting the health and safety of young people and helping them establish lifelong healthy behaviors. Research shows that school health programs reduce the prevalence of health risk behaviors among youth and have a positive effect on academic performance.What is the most important thing in healthcare? ›
Patient-centeredness - High-quality care is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values and ensures that patient values guide all clinical decisions. Timeliness - High-quality care minimizes wait times and harmful delays for both those who receive and those who provide care.What is the most important role in healthcare? ›
Nurses make up the backbone of the U.S. healthcare industry.How can we improve health care? ›
- Collect Data and Analyze Patient Outcomes. If you can't measure it, then you can't manage it. ...
- Set Goals and Commit to Ongoing Evaluation. ...
- Improve Access to Care. ...
- Focus on Patient Engagement. ...
- Connect and Collaborate With Other Organizations.
Health conditions, disabilities and unhealthy behaviors can all have a negative effect on education outcomes. For example, children with chronic illnesses may experience recurrent absences and difficulty concentrating in class, which directly affect their academic performance.What are the factors affecting health and wellness? ›
There are many different factors that can affect your health. These include things like housing, financial security, community safety, employment, education and the environment. These are known as the wider determinants of health.Why is it important for students to feel like they belong? ›
In school, a sense of belonging gives students feelings of security, identity and community, which, in turn, support academic, psychological and social development (Jethwani-Keyser, 2008). The majority of students in 67 countries and economies feel that they belong to the school community.