Chelsey Tucker graduated with a Bachelor of History degree from Metropolitan State University in 2019. She now writes about insurance with her specialty being life insurance and has been quoted on Help Smart Phone and MEL Magazine.

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years. He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Mar 19, 2020

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The lowdown...

  • Most colleges and universities offer health care services on campus. Access to these services is usually included in the cost of tuition
  • Most large colleges and universities offer some form of health insurance plan for students
  • Students under the age of 26 are permitted to remain on their parents’ health insurance plans
  • Some students may find a subsidized or catastrophic health insurance plan is the most available option available to them while in college
  • Many students are likely eligible for Medicaid or the Child Health Insurance Program, especially in states that opted to expand Medicaid in recent years

College is a transitional time for many Americans. College students are experiencing more independence than they ever have in their entire lives. One aspect of adulthood young people may be suddenly exposed to in college is acquiring and paying for health care.

From treatment for scrapes and sinus infections to major, debilitating conditions, college students have a variety of options at their disposal to aid in the payment of health care expenditure, especially out-of-pocket costs.

Read on to learn more about what options are available to college students, including on-campus clinics, remaining on a parent’s insurance plan, purchasing a subsidized health insurance plan on the Marketplace and qualifying for Medicaid.

Compare private health insurance for college students below by entering your school’s zip code above!

Campus Clinics and Health Insurance Plans


While there are some exceptions, the majority of college students do not the requisite number of hours to qualify for an employment-based health insurance plan. As health insurance in the United States is largely tied to full-time employment, college students must take unconventional avenues in acquiring health insurance. Luckily, most colleges and universities understand this fact and offer health insurance and healthcare services tailored to students’ needs.

Most large colleges and universities have some form of health clinic on campus that offers basic preventative and acute care services. The cost of accessing these services is often included in a health care fee, included on the student’s tuition bill. These services are among a suite of helpful services provided to students in exchange for tuition.

In the event services are required that exceed the capability of an on-campus clinic, some form of health insurance will be required to mitigate the cost. It is also mandated by federal law that all Americans have health insurance, save a few exceptions.

Many universities offer health insurance plans for students. These plans qualify as Minimum Essential Coverage under the Affordable Care Act, meaning they meet the minimum requirements of the health care mandate. Simply put, subscribing to an insurance plan provided by a college or university is sufficient to avoid paying a fine for failing to have health insurance.

College students are able to pay for these health insurance plans in one or two lump sum payments and can use financial aid if necessary. There is a drawback to a health care plan sponsored by a student’s university. Whereas Marketplace plans can be subsidized with federal tax credits, campus plans are not subject to any such cost mitigating measure.

Sometimes college health insurance plans can be more expensive than a subsidized plan on a federal or state health insurance Marketplace exchange. For this reason, it is always important to carefully compare all options and choose the plan that best suits your individual needs.

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Remaining on a Parent’s Health Insurance Plan


One of the most popular provisions of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is the law permitting children to remain on a parent’s health insurance plan until the age of 26. If a student’s parent receives health insurance coverage through employment or a Marketplace plan, this is often the least expensive option available.

Students can remain on their parent’s plans through the age of 26 even if they get married, have a child, decide to leave school, are no longer claimed as a dependent for tax purposes or turn down some other offer of health insurance coverage.

Remember that if the parent’s health care coverage lapses for any reason, so will the child’s. One or both individuals are then subject to penalization under the individual mandate, a fine of 2.5 percent of income or $695.

Subsidized Health Care Plans Through Marketplace Exchanges


The Healthcare Marketplace currently offers individual health insurance plans students can purchase. Several provisions in the law mitigate the cost of health insurance premiums and deductibles for workers making between 100 and 400 percent of the poverty line in the United States. Lucky for them, most students easily meet these criteria due to inconsistent or below-full-time employment.

One option for students in good health is to purchase a catastrophic health insurance plan on the Marketplace exchanges. These plans are available to Americans under 30.

While catastrophic plans usually offer low monthly premiums, deductibles, or the amount of money that must be paid before health insurance benefits “kick in,” is usually very high. The purpose of these plans is to prevent the debilitating cost of a medical emergency.

Another, often better, option for students looking to purchase a marketplace plan is to qualify for a federal subsidy. What income qualifies for a subsidy varies by state and number of dependents. Generally, qualifying income will be between 100 and 400 percent of the poverty level in your state.

The process of signing up for will determine whether a student is eligible for subsidized coverage. In some cases, these plans can cost nothing out of pocket, definitely worth the research and small time investment required.



Some students may also qualify for coverage under Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). For states that chose to expand Medicaid with the Affordable Care Act, all Americans making less than 133% of the poverty line qualify for Medicaid (or CHIP if under 19 years of age). This is an excellent option for students who live in these states.

In states that elected not to expand Medicaid, additional factors beyond income are considered when determining eligibility. Visit to discover whether you meet eligibility criteria in your state. Medicaid benefits are often free or extremely inexpensive. As such, they are an excellent option for students.

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Do you really need health insurance?


College students are usually young and in good health. For this reason, they are often unable to see the benefit of paying for health insurance coverage. However, high-risk behaviors among this population can lead to medical emergencies. Car accidents, substance abuse, mental health problems and recurrent infections all plague this population at high rates.

Health insurance coverage can keep medical emergencies from causing financial ruin early in one’s life. Further, Americans with health insurance are more likely to access preventative care, which can improve health outcomes later in life.

If the physical benefits of health insurance are not persuasive to the college student in your life, it is worth reminding them that they may have to pay a hefty fine if they fail to subscribe to some form of health insurance that complies with standards of Minimum Essential Coverage.

Students must learn to bear the responsibility of independence at this age, and getting and maintaining health insurance coverage is a great step into adulthood.

Find health insurance that can carry you through college and beyond by comparing free quotes on our site. Click here to start!