Well, I admit it. I don’t have real health care. What many students take for granted under their parents’ plans, I do not have. What I do have is Wesleyan’s brand of health insurance offered for free to University Scholars and is available to most students at something like $400 a year.
The plan absolutely sucks and covers basically nothing–no prescriptions, nada. I see a dentist basically once every two years. I put off seeing doctors when at home in Pennsylvania completely because I have no coverage when I’m not at Wesleyan. In fact, the only doctors I can afford to see are at our health center (and wonderful people they are, I might add) because they are free. In the unfortunate event I should get hit by a bus, the coverage cap is pretty low and probably wouldn’t cover three days in the hospital.
In sum, it is basically some of the worst health coverage imaginable. But unless I want to turn over my entire monthly work-study paycheck to get decent health care, I’m stuck. (Trust me, I am a huge advocate of universal health care.)
Anyway, today in the Chicago-Tribune, there was an article about how even if you are lucky enough to get covered by your parents’ plans, you may need to pay attention:
Full-time college students frequently are covered under a parent’s policy or university-offered plan. As a result, just 20 percent of full-time students ages 19 to 23 go uninsured, while 40 percent of non-students and part-time students lack coverage, according to a study this year by the Commonwealth Fund.
Even so, experts say that students’ insurance often is inadequate, for several reasons:
– Services are not within network.
Your parent’s health insurance plan may be restricted to an area that’s close to home–a problem if you move cross-country to go to school. Most student health centers allow you to meet with a physician for free, but if you need additional services, such as lab tests or an X-ray, you could have to pay out of pocket.
– You’re not a “dependent student.”
To qualify for coverage through a parent’s policy you often have to be a full-time student, not part-time. Even then, most plans kick you off when you hit 23, or when you cannot be claimed as a dependent on your parents’ tax return.
“And we’re finding that more employers and insurance companies are doing audits,” said Stephen Beckley, a health-care management consultant. “We’re running into students who say, `I just found out I don’t have health insurance.'”
– You’re on the hook for catastrophic costs.
Because college health plans originally were designed to supplement a student’s medical insurance, not replace it, many policies offer skimpy protection.
So, for example, instead of offering up to $500,000 in catastrophic coverage, the recommended minimum, university plans might cap it significantly lower.
“The ground changed beneath colleges’ feet,” Beckley said. “And to design full-service plans for the student population requires extraordinary resources that most student affairs [offices] just haven’t come to grips with.”
Also keep this in mind the next time you go to the health center. I’d say our facilities are pretty damned good all things considered and I’m extremely grateful for their existence. Otherwise, I’d have one sorry broke ass.
If you do not have any form of coverage, I really recommend asking about Wesleyan’s plan. While it sucks, it’s crucial you have something, anything in case something bad happens to you.