Many colleges and post-secondary schools require student to have health insurance before allowing them to attend. By law, public elementary or high schools cannot deny an education to any students based on arbitrary factors; however, all schools can require basic health measures such as vaccinations before student are allowed to attend, and any post-secondary institution can set rules about health care coverage.

Not all colleges require students to have health care coverage. According to a 2008 survey of colleges, only 38 percent were, at that time, requiring health insurance. However, that number had increased from the previous year, and has gone up even more since then. The Affordable Care Act has also made it more likely that parents will be able to keep their children on their health insurance policies through graduate school, so many schools are taking the position that a student must either have coverage through a parent’s insurance or must purchase the school’s coverage.

Schools Work For Retention

One reason schools are concerned about health insurance coverage is the possibility that a serious health condition, left untreated, could force a student to leave school. Even more insidious is the lurking “pre-existing condition” clause still present in most health insurance policies. If a student becomes ill while attending school without health insurance, he or she may be denied future health insurance coverage because of a simple diagnosis by the infirmary doctor. While the ACA is supposed to bar insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, the Act has not yet been fully implemented. Until it is, students must be covered by some form of insurance to ensure that they can continue their educations when they recover from illness.

Furthermore, wellness is an important issue for students. Students without health coverage tend to put off preventative care. Most schools recognize that a continuous cycle of low-grade infections and illnesses can be just as debilitating for purposes of their education than a major illness or injury.

If I Am Eligible for Health Services Why Do I Need Insurance?

The health fee you pay each year is not insurance. Instead, it covers a variety of clinics and health services on your campus. For example, if you are injured on campus, you will be taken for emergency care to the campus infirmary; you can also schedule appointments for treatment of minor illnesses or for preventative care. However, health services cannot provide you with ongoing medical treatment or intensive care such as surgery or long-term therapy.

Many health services on campus do supply basic pharmaceuticals, emergency triage services, and treatment for commonplace illnesses. You may be able to get your vaccinations such as flu shots at the infirmary, as well, often at a very reduced cost. Health services can be thought of more as “first aid” services. If you have a minor cut or a cold, you can and should utilize your infirmary services. On the other hand, if you have any type of serious injury or illness, you should visit an off-campus emergency room or doctor.

If I Already Have Insurance, How Can I “Opt Out” of My School’s Coverage?

If you already have health insurance, it is important that you follow your school’s policy for opting out of mandatory coverage. Most schools will simply bill you for insurance coverage unless you take the initiative to show that you have previous coverage.

Gather a copy of your insurance card, any paperwork from your company, and the contact information for your insurer. You will need this information to show to your school. You should also be sure you keep your insurance card on you at all times while attending school in case you must be transported to a healthcare facility. Show this paperwork to your registrar when you register for classes.

Many schools have a form you must fill out to verify that you have health care coverage. This form will ask you for the name of your insurers, your Group or ID number, and other information. You may also be able to obtain this information online. If you are covered by your parents’ policy, ask them if you can have permission to access your information online. If not, ask for a printed copy.

While most schools require you to have healthcare insurance, it is also very important for you as an individual to have this coverage. Health insurance ensures that you will receive the care you need no matter what happens to you and that you can continue your education without serious interruptions.