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What Are Health Insurance Options for Alabama Students?

HealthCare Writer

Updated on February 7th, 2024

At PivotHealth.com, we want to make health insurance easy to understand so you can make better decisions. This post may have links to lead generation forms or direct you to our trusted insurance brokers, which is how we make money. However, this will not influence our writing.

What You Need to Know

Alabama law doesn’t require students to have health insurance, but your college or university might.

You can stay enrolled in a parent’s health plan until you turn 26, but make sure it covers healthcare providers where you attend school.

Your school may offer a student health insurance plan, which may or may not be optional depending on school policy.

As you plan for college, how you’ll pay for healthcare is an important consideration. You’ll find that students in Alabama have many coverage options. We’ll explore the most common ones here. 

Why Do Alabama Students Need Health Insurance? 

Everyone needs to see a doctor now and then, even people who are young and healthy. From preventive care to treatment for unexpected injuries and illnesses, health insurance helps cover the cost. 

What Should You Consider When Searching for Student Health Coverage in Alabama?

Your healthcare needs and budget will largely determine the coverage best for you. The answers to these questions will help you narrow your options: 

  • Do you have any ongoing health concerns or take prescription medications? 
  • What monthly premium and cost-sharing (deductible, coinsurance, copayment amounts) can you afford? 

Next, consider the following: 

Will You Attend School In State or Out of State? 

If you are from Alabama and go to school there, it could make sense to keep your existing coverage. However, be sure your plan’s provider network includes doctors and hospitals near your college or university. If it doesn’t, can you make the trip home when you need in-network healthcare? 

If you’re from another state but go to school in Alabama, you will likely be out of your current health plan’s provider network and want new coverage. Not all policies cover out-of-network care, and those that do usually charge you more out of pocket for it.

Can Someone Claim You as a Dependent? 

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions are available to those who enroll in an individual major medical plan. Your status as a dependent could impact your eligibility for these income-based subsidies.

If your parents, for example, claim you as a dependent on their tax return, all income on that return is used to determine your subsidy. If you’re not a dependent, only the income included on your return is used.

Will You Stay on Your Parent’s Plan or Enroll in Your Own Plan? 

If you maintain coverage through a parent, make sure the policy includes healthcare providers near your school. If not, you may need to enroll in your own coverage. Even if it does, you still might want to research options available to you as a student to see if a less expensive choice or one with better benefits is available. 

Other Options

Two additional options that could work for you include catastrophic and short-term health insurance.

Will You Be a Part-Time or Full-Time Student?

Some schools offer student health plans exclusively to full-time students, while others extend eligibility to part-time students as well. Check your institution’s credit hour requirements to determine whether or not you qualify.

If you are not eligible for school-sponsored coverage, you may want to consider an ACA plan or coverage through a parent.

What If You Get Covered Under Your Parent’s Plan in Alabama? 

Enrolling in a parent’s health insurance plan can be convenient and affordable. Federal law allows you to do so until you turn 26, regardless of whether you’re 1) in college, 2) living at home, 3) eligible for your own job-based coverage, 4) financially dependent or 5) married.1

You may choose this option if you attend a college or university close to home. As mentioned above, the plan’s provider network is a factor in this decision. Additionally, if your school mandates health insurance, make sure your parent’s plan meets the college’s requirements.

What If You Get Covered Under Your School Plan in Alabama? 

Some schools offer a student health insurance plan. This coverage typically provides 1) comprehensive benefits, 2) low premiums that may be rolled into your tuition and 3) provider networks that include on-campus care (if available). 

A student health plan might be a good fit if you’re 1) uninsured, 2) need coverage with an Alabama provider network or 3) want insurance that’s less expensive than what you currently have.

First Step

Your school’s website may be a helpful starting point if you want to learn more about student health insurance coverage.

What If You Get Covered Through the Affordable Care Act in Alabama? 

If you qualify for subsidies, an ACA plan could be cost-effective. ACA plans provide comprehensive coverage, including the 10 essential health benefits. They are also “guaranteed issue,” which means your application can’t be denied if you have pre-existing health conditions, such as diabetes. 

An ACA plan may be right for you if you: 

  • Need to see a doctor on a regular basis and/or take prescription drugs.  
  • Buy your own health insurance and have a lower income. 
  • Need coverage with an Alabama provider network. 
  • Don’t have access to a student health insurance plan at school.

You can buy Alabama ACA plans through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace. Moving to or from the place where you attend school qualifies you for a special enrollment period outside of the annual open enrollment period.2 

If you’re a dependent who comes from another state to attend school in Alabama, you and your parent(s) must fill out separate ACA applications and provide financial information for everyone included in the tax household. Your parent(s) will indicate that they don’t need coverage and the policy is for you; however, their income will still factor into your subsidy eligibility.3

What If You Get Covered Through Medicaid or CHIP in Alabama? 

If you’re already covered through Alabama Medicaid or ALL Kids, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), then you can keep your coverage as long as you continue to meet eligibility criteria. This could be your most affordable option. 

However, you’ll want to be sure that your school’s student health center (if it has one) accepts these benefits. Otherwise, search for nearby providers who do. 

Medicaid and CHIP coverage doesn’t typically transfer between states. You will need to reapply for coverage in Alabama if you’re enrolled in one of these programs elsewhere.

What Are Other Options for Coverage in Alabama? 

Two additional options that could work for you include catastrophic and short-term health insurance. These plans often have lower premiums than unsubsidized ACA plans, which can make them appealing to students who buy their own coverage.

Catastrophic Health Plan

Designed for people under 30 and others with hardship and affordability exemptions, catastrophic health insurance provides comprehensive coverage with a relatively low monthly premium. These plans tend to have higher deductibles than others, which makes them a better fit if you don’t have a lot of healthcare needs.

If you qualify, catastrophic health plans appear among your options on the federal Health Insurance Marketplace. They are not eligible for ACA subsidies. 

Short-Term Health Insurance

Short-term health insurance is a temporary coverage option that can work well for college students who 1) don’t have access to coverage through a parent, 2) can’t afford an unsubsidized ACA plan, 3) attend a school that doesn’t offer a student plan or 4) need coverage for a month or two.

Benefits for short-term plans center around unexpected healthcare needs, as opposed to preventive services and treatment for pre-existing conditions. For this reason, short-term plans tend to cost less than unsubsidized ACA plans.

Alabama short-term health insurance policies can last up to 364 days, with renewals up to 36 months.4 You can quickly apply for coverage online or through an agent. 

Short-term policies are not “guaranteed issue,” which means you can be denied coverage if you have pre-existing conditions.

What If You Skip Health Insurance in Alabama? 

While a federal tax penalty for going without health insurance no longer exists, some states impose their own penalty. Alabama is not among them. However, if you do go without coverage, you’ll have to pay for healthcare fully out of your own pocket.

What Are State-Specific Rules for Alabama Students? 

Alabama allows colleges and universities, both public and private, to set their own student coverage requirements.

What Are School Requirements in Alabama? 

Student health insurance rules and offerings vary among Alabama schools. Below, see highlights of three of the state’s largest universities: 

Auburn University

Auburn University recommends that all of its students have health insurance.5 

However, only international students are required to have it. All J1 visa international scholars, J1 student-interns, and J2 dependents must have the Auburn University Employee Benefits Medical Plan or Auburn University Student Health Benefit Plan for International Scholars.6

The school sponsors a student health insurance plan, which is available to undergraduate and graduate students, as well as their spouses and dependents.7

The University of Alabama

The University of Alabama encourages but does not mandate that all domestic (U.S.) students have health insurance.8 The school offers a university-sponsored health insurance plan to those who meet policy eligibility requirements — domestic undergraduates taking five or more credit hours and domestic graduate students taking at least three credit hours. 

All international students must have insurance and are billed for the student policy unless they file a waiver.9

The University of Alabama at Birmingham

The University of Alabama at Birmingham requires all domestic undergraduate students enrolled in a degree-seeking program and taking at least nine credit hours on campus to have health insurance.10 

Graduate student requirements vary by program. All international students must have coverage. 

The school offers a comprehensive student health insurance plan. Students are enrolled in the student plan unless they have an approved waiver on file.11 

What Are Resources for Alabama Students? 

Your school’s website can be a helpful starting point if you want to learn more about student health insurance coverage. It might also provide your college or university’s latest COVID-19 policies, such as masking, distancing and vaccination requirements. 

The Alabama Department of Insurance website includes a Health Insurance Options page for consumers with links to information about individual health insurance and short-term, limited duration health insurance, including insurers that sell plans in Alabama. 

If you’re considering an ACA plan, you can use the federal Health Insurance Marketplace to estimate your subsidy, shop for coverage and enroll. 

Next Steps

Even if you think your choice is clear, compare your health insurance options to discover the right plan for you. Start by looking at the cost of different types of coverage — for example, your parent’s plan, your school’s plan and an ACA plan. 

Look at premium and cost-sharing amounts, plan benefits and exclusions, and provider networks. 

If you have questions, contact the insurance company that offers the plan you’re considering or find local help through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace.



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  1. About the ACA: Young Adult Coverage. hhs.gov. Accessed April 2021.

  2. Enroll in or change 2021 plans — only with a Special Enrollment Period. healthcare.gov. Accessed April 2021.

  3. In school? Student health plans & other options. healthcare.gov. Accessed April 2021.

  4. Bulletin No. 2018-04, Re: Short-Term Limited Duration Plans. aldoi.gov. Accessed April 2021.

  5. Student Health Services: Student Insurance. bulletin.auburn.edu. Accessed May 2021.

  6. Scholars and Dependents. auburn.edu. Accessed May 2021.

  7. Student Health Services: Student Insurance.

  8. Insurance & Waivers. uab.edu. Accessed April 2021.

  9. Insurance & Waivers.

  10. University Sponsored Health Insurance. shc.sa.ua.edu. Accessed April 2021.

  11. University Sponsored Health Insurance.