When your child heads off to college, there’s a lot to think about. Making sure they can handle health issues on their own might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but it shouldn’t be the last.
You can help your college-bound son or daughter take care of a few important things before they leave. First, have them install their insurance app (if applicable) on their phone and sign up for their own online account if they haven’t already. That way they’ll always have their member ID on them and can quickly find an in-network doctor.
Virtual care is is an option for members. Your child can call or text with a doctor or mental health therapist from anywhere in the United States. They may even be able to see their primary care doctor back home virtually.
Get a checkup from your family doc
If the student has ongoing health concerns or needs to get up to date on preventive care, this is the right time for a checkup. It’s good to know everything is OK-and it’s a chance to touch base once more with your family doc.
Understand the options for covered care at school
- To be seen at the student health center, the student probably needs to be enrolled in the school’s health plan. Otherwise, they (or you) will pay for the full cost of the visit and any care.
- If your college student is covered by your plan, they may be able to get in-network coverage if the local provider they see is part of an extended network. Make sure they have their insurance card ID card and are familiar with the copays on the front of the card and phone numbers on the back.
- Some plans have narrow networks, so if your child goes away to school, they might not have access to non-emergency care locally. For these moments, they might consider using virtual care options.
- Your college student can buy individual coverage from the local or federal healthcare exchange, depending on where they attend school. In that case, they’ll be responsible for paying premiums and cost shares, and finding local in-network doctors, pharmacies, and hospitals. Check a list of which states run their own health insurance marketplace. Or visit healthcare.gov.
Understand the emergency room isn’t always the answer
It’s tempting to try to avoid all this and just hit the local emergency room if there’s a problem. That may lead to big bills and care that doesn’t address ongoing issues. Make sure your college student understands:
- Emergency rooms are for true medical emergencies (such as a broken bone, severe abdominal pain, breathing difficulty) only. If it is a medical emergency, of course your college student can and should go to the ER.
- Using the student health center, or going to an in-network urgent care center or in-network doctor may be a better option. If your student is covered by your plan, the free 24-Hour NurseLine can help them decide, or offer suggestions for home treatment.
- Also, if your student’s plan covers virtual care, they can get care via voice phone or online video from a board-certified physician. Virtual care docs can diagnose and prescribe medications for many conditions. To find out if virtual care is covered by your specific plan, please contact member services on the back of your card and check your plan benefits.
With this healthcare homework done, you can relax (a little bit). And your favorite college student is free to worry about their tough stats class or that dish that’s been festering under the roommate’s bed since move-in day.