College Health Insurance 101: How to Pick the Best Health Insurance for Students

June 1, 2022

Sound health is often taken for granted, especially by vigorous and resilient college students.

The existing U.S. health insurance system can be complex to navigate, so it comes as no surprise that freshmen are often confused about choosing their first insurance coverage. Besides, the political landscape is likely to lead to changes and alterations in the ACA, which means that health insurance might become less accessible.

This guide is geared towards helping parents and undergraduates single out the most preferable health insurance options and draw a distinction between them.

How to Handpick Student Insurance Plans

Alumni and college students can receive insurance coverage in several ways. But before delving into the matters at hand, it is crucial to do research and visit By entering such information as current income (if any), location, and family size, they can check which policies are available for purchasing.

And while eligibility criteria vary, there is a chance to get discounts on student insurance plans. But here is the thing: student discounts depend on the current income if parents did not list their children as dependents on their income tax returns.

In any case, making an informed choice about the student health plan requires more than doing your due diligence. Let’s take a look at the health insurance options young adults typically get to handpick.

College-Sponsored Plan

It is not uncommon for colleges to fund and offer student health insurance. In some cases, carriers choose to fund it directly. But the objective remains the same — make it more affordable and accessible to young people.

The price of this type of insurance for college students broadly depends on the institution and can be automatically charged along with other college-related expenses.

As for eligibility, every institution has different rules. But it is often based on the number of credit hours picked by the individual.

If you want to request complementary information on the specific school-based plans, contact dedicated health centers for more information.

Parents’ Health Insurance Plan

Let’s face it: staying on parent’s health insurance is one of the most popular and convenient alternatives for young people, at least until they turn 26. That is an age limit, allowing young people to use their parent’s plan regardless of their living situation, marital or parental status.

If you are a kid in the specified age group attending a university or about to graduate with no active health insurance plan in place, there is no need to panic. You can still ask to be added to your family plan and be listed as a dependent. But bear in mind that your family can only add you during the designated period.

Medicaid Services

When the ACA took effect, the Medicaid services broadened and became accessible to impoverished families.

Qualifying for this coverage means that it can be received right away for free or at a reduced price. The eligibility criteria differ depending on the state and, generally, imply that families have to be far below the poverty line to receive this health insurance coverage.

If you want to enroll in this program, you can visit their offices or get a policy on the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Exchange Offerings

Looking for the best health insurance for students can be tricky. Undergraduates and their families are often worried about not checking all the boxes. But when it comes to acquiring policies through the exchanges like Health Insurance Marketplace, it is a reliable way to get all the fundamental needs covered.

If you want to find a specific product like post-collegiate health insurance or college health insurance for your children, this is one of the best ways to approach this matter.

Employer-Sponsored Plan

Such coverages can work as a backup plan if none of the alternatives mentioned above match the individual circumstances or serve your needs. And while it is not uncommon for undergrads to work while getting their degrees, not all of them can manage to get a full- or part-time job.

The latter does not negate the possibility to acquire an insurance plan for students. On the contrary, young people can get employer-sponsored coverage even if they get an after-school job. As for the benefits and qualification criteria, they typically depend on the standards set by the specific enterprise.

If you are interested in getting a work-based insurance plan for students, contact the HR department for more information.

Catastrophic Plan

When it comes to this plan, the name speaks for itself. This insurance type is geared towards safeguarding individuals from worse-case scenarios like getting severely ill or critically injured.

Even so, it doesn’t seem like an appealing option for young people looking to acquire a cost-effective health insurance plan. But here’s the deal: such plans can only be acquired by people younger than 30 facing specific hardships and not being able to afford any type of coverage.

Sounds like a good deal, right? Well, here’s the catch: acquiring this plan implies paying lower premiums, but a policyholder has only a limited number of primary medical care visits annually.

Bottom Line

If you are an undergraduate with a minimum required number of credit hours, most institutions will make it possible for you to get a sponsored health insurance plan regardless of the learning format.

Unfortunately, young people are no strangers to difficult circumstances, and college-sponsored coverage might not work for everyone. In that case, there is a possibility to get an individual, family, or other plans.


What should I choose as a graduate: family plan or job-based coverage?

When choosing between these two options, grads should not base their decision on the long-term perspective. The best way to deal with this dilemma is to think about your plans for the not-so-distant future. For instance, if you are not planning to move anytime soon, staying on your family plan will be a safe and practical decision.

Can other people access my treatment history if I am on a family plan?

Yes, they can. As a rule, the carrier sends notices to the policyholders, which means that your relatives will be able to view your treatment history details. If you want to keep the information private, consider getting separate health insurance for college grads or undergrads.

Should I be concerned about acquiring coverage if I am self-employed?

There is no need to be concerned with this matter. In fact, freelancers have several options to consider: they can stay on family plans or find suitable alternatives during the enrollment season.

How can I find cheap but worthy coverage as a student?

Let’s be fair: it’s all relative. It is no secret that the needs may vary dramatically, which means that every coverage has the potential to be the best option. Ultimately, it all depends on an offering you are prepared to take.

What should I pay the closest attention to when choosing coverage?

Handpicking insurance for college students is no easy task. When shopping for it, we recommend paying close attention to the list of hospitals, the network, and premiums. It is also important to factor in other related expenses and payments. At the end of the day, it all comes down to what you need and can afford.

Victoria Berezhetska

Victoria Berezhetska is a Content Lead at and an expert contributor to CoverExplore. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, with extensive working experience as a PR specialist and content writer. At CoverExplore, she helps customers find the right educational material through easily digestible blog posts and buying guides backing their insurance coverage choice. Victoria covers diverse topics around digital and insurance marketing, including auto, home, health, and life insurance.