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Getting to the health of the matter

Recent college grads face insurance matters

Recent college grads face insurance matters

December 23, 2007|By BETHANY TREMBLAY, Herald-Mail Intern

When Katie Covington graduates from Shepherd University, obtaining health insurance will be at the top of her to-do list.

Covington, of Richmond, Va., saw first-hand what can happen to a recent college graduate who gets sick and doesn't have health insurnace.

"I had a friend who had appendicitis two weeks after being dropped from his parents' insurance and he had to cover the medical costs himself," said Covington, who is a senior at Shepherd. "Health insurance is a huge priority for me."

Young adults between the ages of 19 and 29 make up the largest demographic of uninsured Americans. There are 13.7 million people in that age group who are not insured, according to the State Coverage Initiatives, a national program that works with states to improve the availability and affordability of health care coverage.

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Many of those young adults are college students or recent graduates.

A number of students can maintain health and property insurance under a family or group plan as long as they are enrolled full time at a college or university. These group plans typically cover students up to age 22, or until they graduate, said State Farm insurance agent Steve Swayne, of Hagerstown.

Students covered under family health insurance are typically covered for medical needs ranging from routine doctor visits and outpatient procedures to emergency medical situations. This coverage extends to most states where students might be living in dorms or in apartments near their schools.

Kristin Hiser of Maugansville is a junior majoring in music education at Shepherd University. She is covered under her parents' health insurance, but said she pays for her own insurance for her car.

Under her parents' insurance policy, Hiser has dental, optical, medical and prescription coverage that will end when she graduates from college.

Swayne said it is not difficult for students to get health insurance on their own. Students who are not already covered under some sort of health care plan should make the investment because of high medical costs, he said.

"Health care is expensive. When someone is young and healthy, insurance is inexpensive," said Swayne.

Holly Rusnak, of Wright-Gardner Insurance in Hagerstown, said one factor in determining the price of health insurance is the amount of the deductible an individual has. Wright-Gardner uses CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield for individual insurance policies. Rusnak said an average deductible is around $500.

Health insurance rates do not change based on the gender of the individual and Rusnak said the 18 to 29 age group is generally covered under a flat rate.

A 22-year-old with a $500 deductible could obtain health insurance for $136 per month, said Rusnak.

Health insurance isn't the only concern for students.

According to the CSI Insurance Agency Web site, 50,000 property crimes are reported on college campuses each year.

A college dorm room can contain many thousands of dollars worth of computers, computer equipment, electronics such as iPods, video game systems and cell phones, clothing, books and even musical instruments.

Luckily for students covered under their parents' homeowners insurance, these items, in most instances, are protected against theft or damage if the student is a resident on the college campus, said Hagerstown Nationwide insurance agent Andrea Henson.

Students who live off campus and are not covered under their parents' homeowners insurance can obtain renter's insurance.

"Students should protect themselves against the loss of anything they can't afford to lose. I recommend renter's insurance to all of my clients who rent, not just to sudents," said Swayne.

Henson said that while her agency typically recommends $20,000 contents coverage, many students with renter's insurance choose to cover up to $10,000.

Post-graduation insurance coverage is the main concern for some students who are unsure of where they will be working when they get their degree.

Swayne said students covered under their parents' insurance lose that coverage 30 days after graduation.

"It's definitely something I think about," Hiser said of post-graduation health insurance. "Since I want to teach music, there might not be jobs right away."

In order to stay insured, Hiser said that if she cannot find a teaching job when she graduates, she will keep her current job as a waitress, which offers some benefits, but not the same benefits that would come with being a teacher.

Hiser recommended that students who can afford it get their own insurance.

While searching for car insurance, Hiser did research on a number of different agencies. She compared rates and programs for students, such as discounts for full-time students who maintain good grades.

"Having my own insurance really helps," Hiser said. "I'm only 20, but I have a good credit history and an idea of what to do for insurance when I'm out of school and on my own."

Illustration by Ric Dugan

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