Should You Get School-Sponsored Health Insurance?

3 Sep

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College students tend to feel somewhat invincible when it comes to serious injuries and diseases. You’re young and in good shape, so why do you need health insurance?

Well, for starters, if you live and study on-campus, you’re constantly in close quarters with hundreds (if not thousands) of other young people — you probably haven’t been encountering this many germs since you were licking toy trucks in kindergarten. Unfortunately, in college, missing school because you’re sick can be much more problematic than it was when you were five.

sick pig with ice pack

Photo by: Ollie Crafoord

Sickness aside, college students are also one of the more accident-prone groups . So whether you’re skiing at Swiss Valley or just riding your bike across campus, it’s good to remember that you’re not actually invincible. This reality check might be hard to accept, but whether you like it or not, it’s critical that you secure health insurance. No one wants to empty their life savings or take out an additional loan just because that late-night sledding expedition went awry.

Most colleges and universities, Purdue included, offer a health insurance plan to all currently enrolled students. This type of coverage is a great option to consider, but it’s not for everyone. Here’s what you need to know about what this plan will cover and what it won’t:

Overview of the Purdue Student Health Plan

As a general rule, if you’re a registered student at Purdue’s main campus in West Lafayette and taking six or more credit hours (or are a co-op student seeking a degree), you’re eligible for the student insurance plan. But be sure to read the fine print. Here are the key points of the plan:

Your deductible: Your annual deductible will not exceed $200 if you receive medical treatment from preferred providers within the Purdue network; if you use out-of-network providers, your annual deductible will double to $400. 

Your maximum benefit: $500,000 per year

Coinsurance: When you visit preferred medical providers, your plan covers 90% of the costs; when you consult out-of-network providers, the insurance covers 70% of the costs.

Out-of-pocket maximum: If you seek treatment from preferred providers, then your out-of-pocket maximum is $1,500 per year; this amount is doubled if you use out-of-network providers.

Coverage: Here is a non-exhaustive list of services you’re covered for (costs are subject to the coinsurance and out-of-pocket maximum terms listed above):Female Doctor

  • Inpatient room and board expenses at a hospital
  • Surgeon’s fees
  • Anesthetist
  • Physician’s visits
  • Physiotherapy
  • Outpatient diagnostic X-rays
  • Outpatient radiation
  • Outpatient chemotherapy
  • Outpatient lab services
  • Ambulance services
  • Dental treatment (made necessary by injury to sound, natural teeth only)
  • Mental illness treatment
  • Substance use disorder treatment
  • Maternity
  • Smoking cessation
  • Preventive care services (covered at 100% of preferred allowance)
Cartoon Doctor

Photo by: Angelus

Pharmacy and prescription drug benefits: If you go to the Purdue Pharmacy for your prescriptions, you’re covered at 100% beyond the following copays. Generic prescriptions cost $10, while brand name prescriptions cost $20.

Maternity testing: You’re not covered for all routine, preventive, or screening examinations and testing. If certain conditions are met, you may be able to get coverage for some maternity-related tests, including:

Mandatory benefits: You may be eligible to receive benefit treatments for the following special scenarios:

  • Pervasive developmental disorder (e.g. Asperger syndrome and autism)
  • Diabetes
  • Reconstructive surgery and prosthetic device
  • Breast cancer screening
  • Cancer clinical trials

As with every insurance policy, there are a number of exclusions and limitations. Make sure to review the plan details. The exclusions and limitations start on page 19.

Please also note that coverage may differ for certain students. International students, for instance, are required to enroll in the insurance plan; they receive the same maximum benefit, deductibles, and out-of-pocket maximums as domestic students.

Advantages of the Purdue Plan

  • Preventive care: As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The 100% coverage rate for preventive care is incredibly valuable.
  • Low deductible: If you stay in-network for treatment, you only have a $200 deductible. This is low when compared to many individual plans.
  • Low out-of-pocket maximum: If you stay in-network for treatment, your out-of-pocket maximum will be $1,500 for a year. That may sound like a lot, but it’s nothing compared to an uninsured hospital bill for a broken leg or emergency surgery!

Photo by: Trainer2a

Drawbacks of the Purdue Plan

  • Limited coverage: This isn’t intended to be a fully comprehensive plan. For example, it doesn’t cover vision, hearing, or dental (with the exception of “dental injuries” as specified in the plan).
  • Pharmacy restrictions: If you have your heart set on a pharmacy other than Purdue’s pharmacy, you’ll pay quite a bit extra for prescriptions.
  • Does not cover certain medical equipment: If you require a wheelchair, nebulizer, or other piece of ‘durable medical equipment,’ you’re out of luck (wheelchairs, nebulizers, etc.).

Ultimately, Purdue’s plan is comparable to most school student insurance plans. If you have a chronic condition that won’t be covered under the Purdue policy (for example, something related to your vision or hearing), you might consider alternative or supplemental insurance. You’ll find that most schools (not just Purdue) won’t offer full-scale, comprehensive coverage.

If you’re a student, it’s critical to maintain health insurance protection. Whether or not the Purdue plan is right for you depends on your individual circumstances. Take some time to thoroughly research your school’s plan to ensure it provides coverage for your unique needs including any pre-existing conditions, lifestyle.

Ellen Hunter Gans, M.A., MSc. is a writer, editor and communications strategist who contributes to The Simple Dollar’s credit card portal. The Minnesota native has been writing about finance (among other things) for over four years. Find her on LinkedIn.

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