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For college students, health insurance isn’t a luxury. It’s a requirement. Unfortunately, it’s also difficult to navigate and even harder to find the right policy. If you’re like most college students, you want the best plan possible that still meets the requirements of your school. If your parents’ insurance covers you, it may be tempting to keep your current coverage — after all, why not?

Institutions also can also decide to do healthcare staffing. The problem is that if you do this as a full-time student, you’ll be enrolled in a separate health plan from your parents. So if something happens and one insurer doesn’t cover something or pays for an item at a lower rate than the other, you could run into problems. Below are some of the most helpful things you can do to learn more about buying health insurance as a college student:

Compare plans

The health insurance marketplace allows you to compare all available plans and prices in your area. This is important because even though one plan might look affordable at first glance, it could turn out to be much more expensive than another if it doesn’t cover your prescription drugs, for example. Be sure to compare plans closely so that you don’t end up spending more than you have to on premiums.

What is your budget?

Your budget will determine the type of coverage you can afford. Plans with lower premiums often have higher deductibles and copays. How much are you willing to pay out-of-pocket before your plan kicks in? If you are on a tight budget, it may be best to choose a plan with higher premiums and lower deductibles and copays.

Will you be eligible for financial aid or scholarships?

Many schools offer free or heavily discounted health care for students who meet certain eligibility requirements. The financial aid department in school will let you know if you qualify. Are there any other resources that may help pay for your health care needs?

Find out if you qualify for subsidies.

If your income is low enough, you may qualify for premium subsidies when purchasing a plan through the marketplace. These subsidies lower costs significantly for many people, so it’s worth looking into.

Premiums

Health care premiums are based on the services offered and several other factors, including age, sex, and location. Prices vary from state to state; however, prices will always be higher in urban areas with a higher demand for medical services.

Deductibles

A deductible is the portion of medical bills you are responsible for paying out of pocket before your insurance plan begins paying its share of expenses.

Here are our top picks for the best health insurance plans for college students:

Cigna Student Health Insurance

Cigna Student is the best health insurance for college students for several reasons. Cigna’s health insurance options are comprehensive, with prescription drugs, preventative care, and even mental health services. The price of Cigna’s student plans is also a major plus — if your income qualifies you for a subsidy, the monthly cost of Cigna’s student plans may be significantly lower than other insurance plans.

One of the biggest disadvantages of Cigna health insurance is the lack of subsidies for dependent college students. Unlike many other providers, Cigna does not offer subsidies for dependents under the age of 26. If you’re a student and consider Cigna as your provider, you may need to find a new healthcare provider. If you’re in good health and only plan on seeing your doctor once or twice a year, this disadvantage may not be a big deal. However, if you have chronic health problems or see your doctor regularly, this can be a major disadvantage.

Aetna

Aetna offers affordable student health insurance plans in various states. Aetna’s plans are designed to give you access to quality medical care while keeping your costs down. As a college student, you have your own unique needs. Aetna has several different plan options to meet these needs, including individual, short-term, and international student coverage.

Here are some of the advantages of Aetna health insurance for college students:

●            Relatively low premiums

In general, student health plans are less expensive than traditional health insurance plans because they cover a smaller network of in-network providers. In addition, the plans may not cover all medical claims until you’ve met your deductible. This can make them more affordable for students on a tight budget or who don’t require extensive coverage due to their age or lack of dependents (for example).

In general, young people are less likely to use their health insurance than older policyholders are. Therefore, insurance companies can afford to reduce premiums for younger policyholders because they aren’t likely to use their coverage very often.

●            It covers some preventative services at no cost

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Aetna’s student health plans offer some preventative care at no cost — including immunizations such as flu shots and some preventive screenings. Keep in mind these benefits may change from year to year as new laws are introduced or amended.

Bottom Line

Health insurance should be high on the priorities for college students in the coming years. As discussed above, some programs are more expensive, and others are cheaper to offset the plan benefits. The best program for a student will depend on their and their family’s situation. For example, if a student or university has a premium reduction plan via the school, an inexpensive yet complete health insurance plan from an outside company may be suitable. Also, as health needs change over time, a student may find that what was once adequate coverage is not sufficient or costly in the future due to conditions or new needs. This is all part of being proactive and creative when dealing with health insurance for college students.