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Headed Off to College? Plan Carefully for Healthcare

Headed Off to College? Plan Carefully for Healthcare

It’s common and understandable to feel invincible when you’re young. But no matter how healthy you are, any teen or twenty-something can fall ill at any time. This is especially true when you live in a densely-populated environment (like a college dorm, for example). And of course, we should all worry about things like car accidents.

You need a healthcare plan to protect you from both accidental injuries and common illnesses like the flu. But you’re at an odd stage of life right now. As you leave home, you’re legally an adult in many ways, but in other ways might still be dependent upon your parents. The ACA requires most people to enroll in a health insurance policy, and provides several different ways for you to do so.

Stay on your parents’ plan. This is probably the easiest route. Until you turn 26, you can remain on your parents’ family healthcare plan. That is, of course, assuming that they have one, and that it remains affordable. Due to the cost of college, some families find their budgets become tighter and tighter.

Apply for your own health insurance policy through the exchange. In California, we have Covered California, a statewide healthcare exchange offering a wide variety of ACA-compliant policies. The best part is that you might qualify for a subsidy to help cover the cost of your health insurance premiums. If you live separately from your parents, this subsidy will be based on your income, not theirs.

If you apply for health insurance through Covered California, you might also find that you’re eligible for Medi-Cal. If you go to school out of state, remember to investigate that state’s health insurance system first.

Purchase a student healthcare plan through your school. In most cases these plans count as qualifying coverage according to ACA standards. So, if your parents still claim you on their tax return, they won’t face a penalty for lack of coverage (or if you file your own return, you won’t face that penalty). But of course, you should double check to be sure the plan is ACA compliant before counting on this.

Healthcare law is complicated, so have your parents check with their tax professional before making any decisions regarding the penalty for not having insurance. You need to be covered by a health insurance plan either way, but it’s best to weigh your options first to locate the most affordable one.