College health insurance fees present unforeseen expenses for some students

Mandatory college health insurance and health service fees can pose unanticipated expenses for some students and their families, The Los Angeles Times reports.

The average price for student medical insurance premiums for undergraduates is $226 per month for public universities and $295 per month for private universities, according to a survey by the health care consulting firm Hodgkins Beckley & Lyon (HB&L). Some students can bypass required medical insurance if they have purchased a health care plan of their own through the ACA marketplace; are enrolled in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program; or stay on their parent’s plan. However, these alternatives are viable only if they offer in-network coverage and meet college requirements.

College medical insurance typically provides coverage levels that are higher and premium costs that are lower than insurance exchange options or employer-sponsored coverage students receive from their parent’s plan, says HB&L. Some plans also provide coverage for students in both their school’s and their home states.

Still, without sufficient advance notice or financial assistance, middle- and low-income families can struggle with insurance costs. Hawley Montgomery-Downs, parent of a scholarship recipient attending the University of Southern California, wondered how she and her daughter would afford the university’s $2,273 student medical insurance. “This is not something we budgeted for,” she says.

In addition to medical insurance, schools may require students to pay fees that allow them to access on-campus clinics and cover services such as mental health counseling and disease surveillance monitoring.

To better prepare families for these costs, advocates are calling for greater transparency surrounding student health fees and medical care, in hopes that college students can take full advantage of the health care options available to them through their institutions.

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