September 25, 2010

Whatever you think of the new health care reform laws, the one thing all sides probably can agree on is that college student health insurance plans, with a few exceptions, are fairly awful.

Eighty percent of college students, representing 7 million individuals, are covered. In one state last year, health insurance companies made profit margins from college students that were five times bigger than the other plans they sold.

As The Wall Street Journal described it:

“There is broad consensus that, as a group, college health-insurance plans rank among the worst in the nation for consumers. Many college plans come with remarkably low benefit ceilings — in some cases as little as $2,500. Others limit areas of coverage, such as preventative services and chemotherapy.

“The upshot: Students are often much less insured than they think they are. In extreme cases high-school seniors with health issues might be advised to consider a college’s health plan before attending.”

Some companies spend surprisingly little on mental health coverage, even though counseling is a big need for college students. The Journal said online sites such as can make comparing college plans easier. 

It can be complicated to keep a kid on a parent’s work-provided plan, especially if the student is going to school out of state.

A money management blog on The Boston Globe website also warns parents:

“If you have recently sent a son or daughter off to college, it is critically important that you have a signed Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPOA) in place. This document is important because once your child turns 18, they are legally recognized as an adult and the colleges they are attending generally cannot share medical information with you.

“It is not that the colleges don’t want to share information, but under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a patient’s health information must be kept private once the patient is recognized as an adult. And this privacy extends to the parents of the student. So, if your child becomes ill at school, you might not be able to get any information on their health status.”

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Al Tompkins is one of America's most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. After nearly 30 years working as a reporter, photojournalist, producer,…
Al Tompkins

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