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Before sending your new grads off to college, make sure you get them student health insurance. Most colleges and universities require students to be insured. You have a few coverage options, but not all may apply to your situation:

  • Keep them on your health plan
  • Enroll them in the school’s student health plan
  • Enroll them in an Affordable Care Act (ACA) health plan

Keeping Your College Student on Your Health Plan

Your adult child can stay on your group coverage through an employer or ACA family health plan until they reach age 26. But going off to college could change things. You may be able to keep them on your insurance if the plan’s network is available in the town where your child is attending college.

If your child is not attending a local college or is going out of state, you will most likely need to buy an individual health plan. The first thing you should do is check with your current coverage to see if the area where your child will be living is part of your plan’s network.

  • If it is, make sure you choose a new primary care provider for your child
    • This is important, especially if your child has a chronic condition that requires regular appointments
    • Don’t forget about choosing a pharmacy if your child takes medication
  • If your plan’s network isn’t available, you need to consider other options

Some colleges require students to have local health insurance coverage, so keeping them on your plan and paying out-of-network costs isn’t an option if they are living in a different coverage area. Review the college or university’s healthcare coverage guidelines to understand student health insurance requirements.

Purchasing a Student Health Insurance Plan through the School

If your child’s school requires health insurance, it’s likely to offer a plan you can purchase. Review the plan carefully to see if it supplements the coverage available under your health plan, meaning you would keep your child on your plan in addition to getting supplemental insurance through the school. If it is full coverage, you could remove your child from your plan, which may reduce your costs.

Drawbacks to Purchasing School-Sponsored Student Health Insurance

Plan costs vary among schools. The one offered by your child’s school may not be the lowest cost option for health coverage. Many times, coverage is limited.

For example, if your child gets sick, they may have access only to treatment at an on-campus health clinic equipped to deal with minor health issues. If your child needed to go to the hospital, their care wouldn’t be covered by the school-sponsored plan.

Purchasing an Individual ACA Health Plan for Your College Student

When your child moves away for college, they may qualify for an ACA special enrollment period (SEP). Your child would be eligible to enroll in an individual ACA health plan that provides coverage in the town/area your child will be attending college.

Read out blog about life-changing events that qualify you for an ACA SEP to learn more.


When completing the ACA enrollment application, note that your household income will apply even though your child is enrolling separately. That’s because marketplace savings are based on expected income for all household members, not just the one who needs insurance.

How to Choose an ACA Health Plan

The premium cost per month should not be your only consideration:

  • Check into deductibles and copays
  • Look at the plan’s provider network. Make sure there are doctors, pharmacies, and urgent care facilities near the college.
    • See if the campus healthcare facilities are in the network
  • Make sure the plan’s formulary covers all medications your child is taking
    • Don’t forget to ask what tier they are in to see how much each medication will cost

If you are new to the ACA health marketplace, choosing a plan can be confusing. We have some downloadable resources that will help you:

Make Sure Your Child Has the Insurance Card and Knows Where to Go to Get Care

Before sending your child off to college, make sure they have their insurance card and know:

  • What provider(s) go to for in-network care
  • What in-network pharmacy to go to for medications
  • What their out-of-pocket costs like copays will be and how they will pay for them
  • How to contact the plan with questions or issues

It’s not too early to enroll your child in an ACA plan. You can request that coverage not begin until the month they are leaving for college. While seeing your child leave home won’t be easy, at least you will have peace of mind that their health needs are covered.

Need help finding an ACA plan?

If you want help finding the best health plan for your child heading off to college, American Exchange is here for you. Our licensed, independent health insurance benefits experts know the right questions to ask so your child gets the best student health coverage at the most affordable cost while away at school. Contact us today. There is no cost or obligation.

call: 1.888.995.1674        email:

Visit ACA student health plans

Our compassionate agents are available to speak with you: 

Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern

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American Exchange is a licensed health insurance broker. Robert Huffaker, NPN 13568432

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