By Diana Palmieri
Checklist for College:
- Clothes – Check
- Favorite Comfy Floor Pillow – Check
- Books – Check
- iPod – Check
- iPhone- Check
- Laptop – Check
- Health Care - ???
Health care is the last thing on your kid’s mind while he is preparing for his first semester at college. According to a 2008 Government Accountability Office (GAO) study based on 340 colleges, about 80 percent of college students aged 18 to 23 had health insurance coverage. The United States economy has gone through some significant pitfalls since this survey (financial crisis, high unemployment, rising health care costs, and inflation) which I believe might have people cutting back in their own budgets, perhaps leaving more college kids uninsured and unprotected. You may think when your kid turns age 18, he is still your little baby, but they are adults in the eyes of the law. What does this mean to me as a parent? This means regarding health issues, your parental rights are no longer recognized.
What Are The Options for Health Insurance?
Parent Health Care Plan. The Health Care Reform Law of 2010 covers students and young adults under a parent’s plan until they reach the age of 26. Generally, these plans will cover a child with preexisting conditions. Some may not provide coverage if your child decides to attend school out of state, or may require higher co-pays and deductibles should they decide to provide coverage out of state. What is also very important is that they must get on your plan within 30 days after graduating high school to avoid interruptions in their coverage. These are very general points. Check with your provider for more specific details.
College Sponsored Plan. According to the GAO study, 71 percent of four-year nonprofit colleges offered student insurance, while 82 percent of four-year public colleges offered student insurance. Compare the costs of keeping your child under your plan or perhaps consider the idea of covering them under the college plan. The annual premium depends on location, school, and how the plan is designed. From what I’ve read, most of them are pretty decent regarding what is covered. Again, contact the carrier for more specific details.
An Individual Plan. If either of the above is not an option, then an individual plan can be purchased for the college student. Some of the larger companies like United Healthcare and Aetna offer plans for individual students. You may be surprised at the premiums. College kids are young and in good health compared to the general population, resulting in lower premiums. Check out their Web sites, and call for more specific information and details.
Consider a health care proxy. One very important fact that most people may not know is that when a child is more than 18 years of age, their health care decisions and information are protected under federal law. This means mom and dad can no longer make medical decisions for them. Furthermore, the parents can’t access their child’s health care records or be informed if something like a medical emergency happens to the child. You can prevent this by having a health care proxy, who names someone to make health care decisions if the student cannot. If the student does not have a proxy in place and they get into a devastating accident that leaves them incapacitated, the hospital or medical facility has the right to make medical decisions necessary. This will force the parents to have to go to court and establish a guardianship. Devastating illnesses and accidents might not have time for a court hearing. Also, a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act release form signed by the student will enable a parent to have access to their medical records. Consult an attorney who specializes in these matters; sit down, and get it done. Discussing this with an 18-year-old may be the last thing you want to do, but think of what could happen if access to your child in an emergency were denied or, worse yet, you are not informed.
The bottom line is there could be an accident or debilitating illness that could send your child into unwanted debt and potentially interrupt their education (I don’t need to tell you about debt and college students, if you read my previous column on that subject). You want to keep your child healthy and in school, so make sure you have them insured, and have health care proxies in place! If you think the cost of the premium and health care proxy could be expensive, think about a your child going to the hospital without health insurance coverage and then not having a say on how they will be treated.
The information contained in this article is not intended to constitute legal, accounting, tax, investment, consulting or other professional advice or services. For specific information that applies to your circumstances you should consult a qualified tax advisor or independent professional advisory.
Diana Palmieri is dually registered with Vanderbilt Securities LLC and H Beck Inc., which are unaffiliated. Securities offered through Vanderbilt Securities LLC, member SIPC/FINRA/MSRB.