Planning to insure the future

Sophomore Sally Sawyer sits in her dorm finishing her homework and waiting for the stroke of midnight and the first minutes of her twenty-first year. It is the coming of age college students yearn for and comes with one rarely thought-of side effect: loss of insurance. If Sally were to get hurt she would have nothing to help cover medical bills.

One thing that college students may not realize is they have to think about insurance now that they live away from their parents. While some insurances will cover students until they are 21, and even fewer companies will cover until age 23, as soon as that insurance ends the student should already have a plan for covering their health insurance.

“Every consumer must be a smart consumer and be their own advocate,” said Kayla Dutton, a pharmacist with 15 years of experience working at Winfield Dillon’s Pharmacy. Dutton deals with health insurance with almost every prescription she fills. Dutton stressed the importance of knowing your insurance and what it covers: “Health insurance, like any other kind of insurance, has a lot of information and details in the fine print. You have to read all the fine print to know what your insurance covers and how it is covered.”

The amount of students who are without health insurance is great. A study funded by the Heinz Family Philanthropies and the Chickering Group in 2002 showed that 30 percent of college students are not on health insurance. This is over 4 million students that have to pay for health care on their own. A lot of that 30 percent of students probably did not even think about needing health insurance. For some, they might not even know they are no longer on their parent’s health insurance plan.

Because of this, students absolutely need to be aware of what their current insurance covers, if they are on their parents insurance when that will end, and what insurance plans are available for students.

One thing that students need to realize is that some insurances will not assist with doctor visits or will charge more if the physician is outside the insurance companies network. And also, not all insurances pay for every kind of prescription.

“All insurance companies put together a list of drugs that they will pay for their policy holders. This list is called a formulary,” said Dutton. “Some insurance companies won’t pay anything for a drug not on their formulary”

Dutton explained that insurance companies will go through and look at what classes of medications are needed, then they will decide which medications in that class they will cover and which they will not cover. “Say like the statins, which is one class of meds for cholesterol. Instead of paying for all those statins they will pick out maybe one or two in that group,” Dutton said. After deciding which medications the insurance will cover, they will compile that list into their formulary.

So, when you are looking into what insurances are out there, this is a very important thing to check. As medications can cost a lot of money at times, it is important to pick an insurance that will cover what you need. Most insurance Websites will have their formulary for viewing and they normally update their formulary quarterly.

You also need to be aware of when their insurance coverage will end if you are on your parents insurance. A student can still count as a dependant for many insurances up to the age of 21 or 23, depending on the insurance. But a lot of times the insurance requires proof that the student is enrolled in a college, because if the student is not enrolled sometimes an insurance company will not count them as a dependent.

Because of this you need to be sure to check the age which you will no longer count as a dependant on your parents insurance. While checking that, be sure to check if the insurance requires a student ID or other proof that you are an enrolled student. Even if your parents insurance covers you as a student till age 23, if you do not show proof that you are an enrolled student the insurance company might kick you off your parents insurance.
Finally, if you are not on insurance, or if your parents insurance coverage is about to end, it is absolutely vital that they begin looking for an insurance that you can afford that fits your needs.

Blue Cross Blue Shield is one insurance option for people to choose. It is a very prominent insurance in the state of Kansas and has many different health plans to choose from. They have plenty of low cost plans that can help a student if they get injured or are in need of medication. It’s just all about getting out and doing the research. One can even go to their Kansas Website and look at the available plans. They even have a comparison chart that can show you which insurance to pick based on what your income is and what your needs are.

“Some of the less expensive options are catastrophic coverage [plans],” Dutton said, concerning basic plans to just cover emergencies. “Typically it doesn’t cover doctor visits or medications. It only kicks in for hospitalization and major medical procedures. Another option that is becoming popular is the high deductible plans or health spending accounts.

These plans have lower premiums and often cover all routine or preventative care treatments.

The down side to this high deductible [plan] is being prepared to pay the higher deductible before the insurance company kicks in for their portion.

Thinking about your future and what could happen to you, it is important to pay attention to your health insurance. Without it, you could wind up in a lot of debt with nothing to help pay for it. Health care costs are astronomic. If something where to happen to you and you did not have health insurance, you could wind up with a large amount of debt.

“No one can afford to be without insurance,” said Dutton. “One incident and you can have a lifetime of medical bills. Lots of financial bankruptcies are due to people with insurmountable medical debt. Insurance rates are expensive.”

In the end, students simply need to be aware of their insurance. They need to know what it will cover and what it will not. If they are on their parent’s insurance they need to know when that coverage will end. And if they are nearing that age when they are cut off they need to be looking for a new insurance to cover their possible or preexisting health care needs.

“[We have] that “Its there don’t worry about it” attitude, and we should worry about it and know the details. Its just not fun details to learn,” said Dutton.

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