Short Term Health Plans 2019: Affordable Health Insurance for College Students

With the escalating cost of medical services, it is important for college students to have insurance coverage in the event of an emergency. Short term health plans for college students are specifically designed to meet health insurance needs during the transition period at an affordable price.

These plans don’t qualify under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) as they don’t meet the minimal benefit and coverage requirements of the ACA. A short term health plan means that the student gets the safety provided by health insurance but at a more affordable price compared to getting standard insurance plan.

Besides the pocket-friendly price, this type of insurance comes with lots of flexibility. The duration of short-term plans can last up to 364 days and depending on where you are studying and your insurer, you are allowed to apply for extensions.

What Options are Available?

Although individual Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans may cost more than temporary or short-term health insurance they, however, offer the most comprehensive health coverage benefits.

Getting affordable short-term health insurance coverage is, in fact, easier than most students assume. Undergrad or graduate, full-time or part-time, dorm-room dweller or commuter, short-term health insurance plans are designed to fit a broad range of college students so that they can put healthcare concerns aside as they get college education.

Parent’s Insurance Plan

Students below the age of 26 years can ride on the health insurance plan taken out by their parents. This is applicable whether your parent’s health insurance plan is through a state exchange, private insurance market, employer, or However, that may not always be an economically-feasible option for dad and mom.

Your parent’s health plan is very useful if already you are enrolled in it as it gives you access to affordable, comprehensive, Affordable Care Act-compliant benefits.

School-Based Plans

Although many colleges and universities in the US offer student health insurance plans, the provider networks that are available may be limited. The healthcare law surrounding this specific area is also changing rapidly. In particular, prior to 2013, such plans typically covered catastrophic events such as hospitalization.

Many institutions of higher learning are currently developing plans that meet the changing landscape of the Affordable Care Act. So you may want to consult with your specific college’s plan to confirm. Because of the quickly evolving environment, it becomes particularly important that students read the fine print prior to buying any short-term college health insurance.

Some schools and colleges are now making it mandatory to have health insurance so pay attention to insurance fees and auto-renewal policies tacked onto your college tuition bills.


Students coming from families that are classified as low-income may qualify to apply for health insurance coverage through Medicaid. This is the federal-state program that provides health insurance to financially-challenged and poor Americans. The exact qualifications needed to qualify will depend on the particular state. In some states, you can qualify on the basis of income levels while in others you may need to fulfill additional qualifications like family size or disability.

Under the Affordable Care Act, several states have expanded eligibility for Medicaid to adults younger below 65 years who are earning up to 133% of the national poverty level. This can possibly benefit older college students seeking health insurance coverage.

Individual Plans

It may be, depending on your unique situation, advantageous to buy an individual health insurance plan, though expensive.  If, for example, your parent’s health plan considers your college’s medical facilities as out-of-network, you will need to opt into the pre-selected college plan or get an individual plan policy.

In addition, you don’t want to risk losing insurance coverage in case your parent is in an unstable job or out of work during a college year. Of course, there is no single or health insurance option that meets the coverage needs of all college students. Your individual financial, health, employment status, etc., will determine which plan makes the most sense for you.

Once you get a full-time job and still seeking to further your college education, your employer might possibly be offering ACA-compliant benefits. These may be adequate to cover you during your college period particularly now that the Trump administration has redefined extension periods for short-term health insurance plans. 

Catastrophic Health Insurance Plan

Another alternative kind of health insurance coverage that is available on state marketplaces is high-deductible plans. These, however, are only available to people with low incomes and those under the 30 years. Also called catastrophic health insurance, their working is pretty straightforward. They only cover you for very expensive health emergencies.

These are good and affordable options as long as you only need routine checkups or an annual physical. Catastrophic health plans do basically cover 3 annual primary care visits and any visits beyond that are not covered. Visits to a specialist are not covered.

Catastrophic plans have very high deductibles that can go as high as $6,000. This is quite a substantial amount if you get a really terrible illness or accident while in college. One thing is clear, catastrophic health insurance plans are certainly much cheaper compared to the standard health insurance plans and are an excellent short-term health insurance option for any college student.


Compared to Affordable Care Act (ACA) qualified plans, short-term health insurance plans are, in general, less expensive. They, however, don’t offer the same coverage level as major medical health insurance. They are basically intended for people like college students who cannot or don’t want major medical insurance. They are also good for people who only want temporary and limited health insurance coverage before they get their major health insurance.

President Trump’s administration has recently introduced several changes to the rules governing health insurance allowing Americans to shop for a new form of insurance coverage. Short-term health plans will now be available for relatively longer periods and they can be renewed for up to 36 months. They will also be sold in more states. Currently, short-term health insurance plans can only be sold for three months at a time and in only in a few states.