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College Planning

Saving for college: Health insurance options for college students

Health insurance options have expanded considerably. Here we evaluate some coverage options that can see you through college.

Student health insurance options when paying for college

Student health insurance options have expanded considerably since the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, both on a federal and state level. There are now a variety of affordable coverage options that can see you through your college careers and beyond. Here's a little information to help you choose the best coverage available when saving for college.

Stay on your parents' plan

If you are currently covered under your parents or guardians' family healthcare plan, you can stay covered until you turn 26, even if you get married, are no longer living with or financially dependent on your parents, or if coverage is offered by your current or future employer. There is one small caveat: if you're going to college out of state, you'll need to check and make sure that there are in-network doctors and hospitals near your college, or else out-of-network costs could add up fast.

Use student loans to purchase a student health plan through your school

Many colleges and universities offer simple healthcare coverage plans to students that can be paid for with financial aid. Do check with your student health officials to make sure that the student health plans offered by your college or university technically qualify as healthcare coverage from a federal standpoint. If they don't, you might be subjected to a tax penalty for not having coverage.  

Purchase a plan via federal or state health exchange

There are many coverage plans available to students via state and federal health exchange, including catastrophic plans, which are a low-cost coverage option for individuals under 30 that mainly assists with your healthcare expenses in the event of a serious accident or illness. If you purchase a plan via the exchange, you might be offered subsidies if you and your family fall below a certain income level. You can apply online, by phone, or by mail, and if you would like assistance with your application, you can find a list of experienced, Obamacare-savvy people or organizations in your area using this database.

Determine if you are eligible for Medicaid

Students from low-income families (those whose earnings do not exceed 133% of the federal poverty level) may be eligible for Medicaid in select states. Medicaid is a free or low-cost healthcare plan that was formerly only available to the elderly, pregnant women, children, and the disabled, but some states have now expanded their Medicaid coverage to include students and young adults. You can find out if your state is one of them by consulting this chart on the website.

You can find more helpful info about health coverage options for college students on If you have more questions about saving for college, paying for college, or other aspects of college planning, visit our Protective Learning Center.


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All Learning Center articles are general summaries that can be used when considering your financial future at various life stages. The information presented is for educational purposes and is meant to supplement other information specific to your situation. It is not intended as investment advice and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Protective Life or its subsidiaries.

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