You have lots of decisions to make as you plan for college, including how you’ll pay for healthcare should you need it. Arizona students have a range of health insurance options, which we’ll explore here.
Why Do Arizona Students Need Health Insurance?
Even if you’re healthy, you may experience an unexpected injury or illness and need medical treatment. In that event, health insurance coverage helps pay for the cost of covered medical services. Without it, you’ll need to pay entirely out of pocket for doctor visits and other care.
What You Need to Know
Arizona schools set their own health insurance requirements; you’ll need to check with your school to find out what it requires.
You can remain on your parent’s health insurance until you turn 26, but you’ll need to make sure it covers care where you attend school.
Many of Arizona’s colleges and universities offer a student health insurance plan.
What Should You Consider When Searching for Student Coverage?
Your health and budget will help you choose which coverage is right for you. You’ll also want to consider the following questions:
Will You Attend School In State or Out of State?
If you’re a resident of Arizona and attend school in-state, it could make sense to keep your existing coverage. Just be sure to check your plan’s provider network to see if care is covered where you attend school. Otherwise, you may need to travel home to see a doctor.
If you’ll be an out-of-state student, coming from another state to attend school in Arizona, you may not be able to use your existing benefits for medical expenses or you may have to pay out-of-network rates.
Schools Recommend Coverage
Both the University of Arizona and Arizona State University at Tempe recommend that domestic students have health insurance, either the university’s plan or another one.
Can Someone Claim You as a Dependent?
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), federal subsidies, including premium tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies, help lower the cost of premiums, deductibles and coinsurance when you enroll through the Health Insurance Marketplace. If you’re an out-of-state student coming to Arizona to attend school and someone else, such as a parent or guardian, can claim you on their tax return, your subsidy amount will be based on income for everyone included on that tax return. You and your parent(s) will need to fill out separate applications and include financial information for everyone in the tax household. On their application, your parent(s) should indicate that they don’t need coverage; however, their income will still factor into calculating your subsidy.
If you are not claimed as a dependent, the income listed on your tax return will determine your subsidy for an ACA plan.
Lots of Options
There are many health insurance options for Arizona students, including Affordable Care Act plans, remaining on your parents’ plan, catastrophic and short-term plans and more.
Will You Stay on Your Parent’s Plan or Enroll in Your Own?
If you have coverage through your mom or dad, you may prefer to maintain it while you’re in school. You’ll have continuity in benefits and providers, and you won’t need to start over with a new plan deductible mid-year. As mentioned above, the plan’s provider network may help you determine if this is a viable option.
If you enroll in your own health insurance plan, there are many options to explore. Again, your personal healthcare needs and financial situation should help guide your decision.
What If You Get Covered Through a Parent’s Health Insurance in Arizona?
Federal law allows you to remain on a parent’s health insurance plan until you turn 26, regardless of whether you’re in college, living at home, eligible for your own job-based coverage, financially dependent, or married.1
Dependent coverage can be affordable, but it’s not always the right choice. The plan’s network of doctors and providers will be a key consideration.
What If You Get Covered Under Your School Health Insurance Plan?
Many Arizona colleges and universities endorse a student health insurance plan. This can be a good fit if you are uninsured, need less expensive coverage than what you currently have, or need health insurance with an Arizona provider network.
If you’re considering this option, pay attention to what it covers as well as where and when you can use it (on and off campus, year-round or only during the semester). Eligible students may need to meet an enrollment minimum (e.g., nine credit hours) in order to sign up.
What If You Get Covered Through the Affordable Care Act in Arizona?
In addition to subsidies that lower premiums and cost-sharing, Affordable Care Act plans have some other advantages. Because these policies are guaranteed-issue, you will qualify for coverage regardless of any preexisting conditions you may have. Additionally, ACA plans must include all 10 essential health benefits, including certain no-cost preventive care and prescription drug coverage.
This option could make the most sense if you:
- Need to see a doctor regularly and/or take medication(s).
- Buy your own health insurance and have a lower income.
- Need coverage with an Arizona provider network.
You can enroll in an ACA plan through the federal Health Insurance Exchange during the annual Open Enrollment Period, which typically begins November 1. Otherwise, you may be able to sign up during a Special Enrollment Period if you experience a qualifying life event such as moving or turning 26.
What If You Get Covered Through Medicaid or CHIP in Arizona?
If you already have coverage through the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), the state’s Medicaid agency, then you can likely continue using it unless your eligibility changes. KidsCare, Arizona’s CHIP program, allows eligible children to continue coverage until they turn 19.
If you’re not covered through an AHCCCS program, you’ll need to qualify based on state guidelines, which include a residency requirement.
What Are Other Coverage Options for Students?
If you buy your own health insurance and other options aren’t the right fit, here are two more to consider for student health coverage:
Catastrophic Health Insurance
As their name suggests, catastrophic health plans provide worst-case-scenario coverage. They’re sold on the federal exchange and available to adults under the age of 30 and others with hardship or affordability exemptions.
Catastrophic plans have low monthly premiums, but their deductibles are much higher than traditional ACA plans. Before you meet your deductible, however, you’ll have access to certain no-cost preventive services and at least three primary care visits per year.
Short-Term Health Insurance
Short-term health insurance can be an affordable option for college students who can’t afford an unsubsidized ACA plan, don’t have access to coverage through a parent, or attend a school that doesn’t offer a health plan. In Arizona, short-term health plans provide temporary coverage for 30 to 364 days, with renewals of up to three years allowed.2 Premiums for short-term plans are typically less than those of unsubsidized ACA plans.
These plans are designed to help with unforeseen medical care, as opposed to preventive care or ongoing care for existing health concerns. They are not subject to the ACA, which means they don’t include all of the essential health benefits, and your application can be denied based on your health history.
You can buy short-term health insurance on websites such as PivotHealth, from individual insurance companies, or through a licensed health insurance agent in Arizona.
What If You Skip Health Insurance in Arizona?
There’s no longer a federal tax penalty for going without health insurance.3 While some states impose their own penalty, Arizona is not one of them. As mentioned above, if you do go without coverage, you can expect to pay 100% out of pocket for healthcare.
What Are School Coverage Requirements in Arizona?
When it comes to students and health insurance, Arizona schools set their own rules. Some require you to be insured; others don’t. You’ll need to check with your school. Here are examples from two of Arizona’s largest schools:
Arizona State University — Tempe (ASU)
ASU automatically enrolls all international F1 and J1 visa students in a university-endorsed student health insurance plan.4 The school strongly advises but doesn’t mandate that domestic students have health insurance.
Domestic students may enroll in the university’s student health plan. You may also purchase an ASU Bridge discount plan, a non-insurance product that provides access to discounts on certain care if you go to ASU Health Services. A general medical visit with Bridge costs $15, for example (as opposed to $31-$104), and lab work costs $10 per day, as opposed to $3 to $200-plus per test.5 The Bridge plan is available to all students, whether or not they’re insured through the student health plan. Uninsured students may also purchase the Bridge plan to help lower what they pay out of pocket at ASU Health Services.
The University of Arizona (Arizona)
The University of Arizona requires international students on non-immigrant visas to enroll in the school’s student health insurance plan.6 This plan is optional for domestic students, who are encouraged but not required to have some form of health insurance. Like ASU, Arizona offers a non-insurance discount plan that students can use to lower covered out-of-pocket costs when they visit Campus Health.
What Are Resources for Arizona Students?
As you shop for coverage and use it, these resources may be helpful:
Arizona Department of Insurance and Financial Institutions: This State of Arizona website provides lots of consumer information on topics such as the ACA, healthcare appeals, individual and family coverage, surprise billing and more.
Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System: Here, you’ll find eligibility requirements for Arizona’s state healthcare programs, plus information about getting and using coverage.
Cover Arizona: This website offers informational articles and helpful resources. Arizona uses the federal Health Insurance Exchange, and Cover Arizona links to healthcare.gov, where you can explore plans and pricing.
College and university websites: Many school websites offer basic information about student plans and other coverage. You can usually find this information on sections dedicated to student services or student affairs.
Now that you have an overview, it’s time to price out and compare the different types of coverage you’re considering. As you have plan-specific questions, contact the insurance company that offers the coverage. If you need more help getting started, reach out to a health insurance agent licensed in Arizona. You can search for agents online as well as through the federal exchange or Cover Arizona.