Are you among the 2.9 million freshmen nationwide who have just started college, or are about to? As you buy your books, ponder the best meal plan or wonder whether you will get along with your roommate, don't forget about health insurance.
Whether you're an undergrad or graduate student, your options depend on where you go to college, if you already have coverage through a family or individual health plan, and how much money you make.
It might surprise you to know you could qualify for no-cost Medicaid, the public health insurance program for people with low income.
"The good news is there are a few good options," says Paul Rooney, vice president of carrier relations at eHealth, an online health insurance broker based in Santa Clara, Calif.
Since health plans vary from region to region and state to state, your first call might be to an insurance agent in the market where your college is located to discuss your options. The help is free. In California, you can find certified insurance agents on the "Find Help" tab of the website of California's Obamacare marketplace, Covered California: www.coveredca.com
Sometimes, staying on your family's plan is the best option -- and you can do so up to age 26.
If you are on your family's plan, or you have your own insurance, call the customer service number on your insurance card to ask about the level of coverage, if any, it will provide if you attend college in another region or state.
If your family health plan is a preferred provider organization (PPO) with a national insurance company -- Cigna, Aetna or UnitedHealthcare, for example -- you often can get full medical services at in-network prices in other regions of the country where your insurer operates.
But it also has to work financially. Parents, ask your employer or your insurer if taking your child off the family PPO will lower your premium. If the answer is no, and he will have full network coverage while away at college, it makes sense to keep him on the plan.
If the answer is yes, do the math.