With the Affordable Care Act officially up and running, having heath insurance is now a mandatory requirement for everyone living within the United States—failing to purchase insurance can result in a fine. Many college students will choose to stay on their parent’s health plans—youth can stay on parent’s plans until the age of twenty-six—but this can be complicated when attending an out-of-state school, or if your parents are uninsured. Here are some tips to help you save money on healthcare if you’re in college.
Understand Your Healthcare
Like it or not, you have to have health insurance. If you choose to stay on your parent’s plan, make sure that your insurance covers out-of-state doctors if you’re not attending school in your home state. If not, you should consider getting your own coverage.
Even if your plan does cover out of state doctor visits, you may still want to consider getting your own health insurance independent of your parents. Some health plans will charge extra for out of state visits, and most universities offer healthcare to students at a discounted or inexpensive rate. Check with your school to find out what the application deadline is to receive coverage and compare plans. You can, of course, consider receiving coverage on the federal healthcare exchange, too, which might be a money-saver.
One more thing to consider when choosing a healthcare plan is what your most prevalent health needs are. Are you prone to cavities and frequently require dental care? Do you need contacts or glasses to see well? Is there a particular disease or condition you have that requires monthly treatments or prescriptions? Choose a healthcare plan that provides coverage for your most expensive need; even if you have higher monthly premiums, you’ll save money in the long run when it comes time to visit the dentist or buy new glasses.
Avoid Emergency Rooms…
…Except for in the case of a true emergency. If you don’t have a critical condition that requires immediate attention, you should opt for visiting an urgent care center rather than the emergency room. Emergency rooms often have long waits, and tend to end up costing more than an urgent care center does. Urgent care centers can do nearly everything for non-critical health problems that an ER can do, including write prescriptions, conduct x-rays, and run lab tests.
Buy Generic Prescriptions
If you’re prescribed a medication, ask your physician to write out the prescription for the generic version of the medication. You can even ask your doctor to suggest low-cost options for medications that you need regularly. Asking for generic medications can save you hundreds of dollars each month. Additionally, check with your insurance about co-pay amounts on filling prescriptions; sometimes the co-pay will be more than the medication itself. In cases like this, you can pay in full for the prescription up-front, and skip having the pharmacy bill your insurance.
Use the Internet to Compare and Save
The Internet is an awesome place to compare prices and save money. Most of us are already using the Internet to explore and purchase many other products—why not do the same thing with medication? Online pharmacies can offer discounted prices, quick shipping dates, and even have settings to automatically refill your prescriptions and send them to you when you need.
Don’t waste all your college savings on healthcare—compare plans, go generic, and compare prices online to save money and keep yourself healthy.