Health Insurance Basics

Most colleges and universities within the United States require students to carry health insurance. Health insurance provides coverage for medical expenses including office visits, emergency care, and prescriptions. The cost of these medical services depends upon your individual insurance plan coverage. As a student you may have options like purchasing a school-sponsored plan, remaining on your family plan, shopping the marketplace for a plan, or, in some cases, applying for Medicaid coverage. Regardless of how you gain coverage, there are some basics you should know to help you understand accessing care and your plan’s coverage. 

Fees for services: Check with your campus health and counseling centers to learn about the fees associated with care. Some campuses offer services to students free with the cost of tuition. In these cases, there may be no cost to being seen, but the health or counseling center may bill your insurance carrier for items like laboratory tests or vaccines. Other campuses may charge a student health fee which allows you to utilize campus health and mental health services. And others may bill all services to insurance. 


Insurance card and plan description: You should have a copy of your health insurance card. It contains your membership number, descriptions of co-pays for visits and prescriptions, and important phone numbers for policy support and resources. In addition, you should also review and know where to access your plan description documentation. This documentation fully details what is covered, how much is covered, and any fees you might be responsible for. Your plan description includes  information about pharmacy coverage as well.


Co-pay: The amount of money you pay for expenses like doctor’s office visits, emergency room visits, and prescription medications.


Deductible: The amount of money you pay for covered health care services before your insurance plan starts to pay for these services.


Coinsurance: The percentage of costs of a covered health care service that you are responsible for paying. If you are on a plan with a deductible and you have already paid (met) your deductible, you  pay only the percentage for the covered service. If you have not met your deductible, then you pay the full amount of that service until you reach your deductible amount.


Provider network: A group of medical providers that are partners with your insurance provider. Your carrier prefers you use in-network providers and will charge you less for care if you stay in-network. 


Premium: The amount you pay monthly for insurance coverage.