What You Need to Know
Arkansas does not require students to have health insurance, but individual schools might.
You can stay on a parent’s health plan until you turn 26, but make sure it covers healthcare providers where you attend school.
Some of Arkansas colleges and universities offer an optional student health insurance plan.
As you plan for college, make sure to include health insurance. Arkansas students have several coverage options. We’ll explore the most common ones here.
Why Do Arkansas Students Need Health Insurance?
No matter how young and healthy you are, you’ll need to see a doctor from time to time. Health insurance lessens what you pay out of pocket for covered preventive care and treatment of unexpected illnesses and injuries.
What Should You Consider When Searching for Student Health Coverage in Arkansas?
Before you explore your options, consider your healthcare needs and budget. Start by answering these questions:
- Do you have ongoing medical concerns?
- What prescription drugs do you take?
- What do you consider an affordable monthly premium?
- What can you realistically contribute to cost-sharing amounts (deductible, coinsurance, copayment)?
Also, consider the following:
Your school’s website is a helpful starting point to learn more about its student health insurance coverage.
Will You Attend School In State or Out of State?
If you’re from Arkansas and plan to stay there for school, you might keep your existing coverage. Make sure the plan network includes providers where your college or university is located.
If you move to Arkansas for school, you will probably be out of your current plan’s network. Not all policies cover out-of-network care, or they charge you more out of pocket for it.
Can Someone Claim You as a Dependent?
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) makes premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions available to those who fall within certain income guidelines. Your status as a dependent could impact your eligibility for these subsidies.
If someone else, such as your parents, claims you as a dependent on their tax return, the household income included on that return determines your subsidy. 1 If you are not a dependent, only the income included on your tax return is used.
Will You Stay on Your Parent’s Plan or Enroll in Your Own Plan?
If you stay on a parent’s health insurance plan, make sure it covers doctors and hospitals where you attend school. Even if it does, investigate getting your own plan. You may find less expensive options available to you as a student.
Will You Be a Part-Time or Full-Time Student?
Your enrollment status may determine if you qualify for a school-sponsored health insurance plan. Some colleges and universities extend eligibility to both part- and full-time students, while others do not.
What If You Get Covered Under Your Parent’s Plan in Arkansas?
Coverage through your mom or dad can be affordable and convenient. 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. 2
This option might make the most sense if you’re enrolled in a school close to home. Factors that can help you decide to include 1) your plan’s network, 2) whether you find a more affordable coverage option, and 3) whether your coverage meets school requirements (if there are any).
What If You Get Covered Under Your School Plan in Arkansas?
Some Arkansas schools offer a student health insurance plan. This coverage typically provides 1) comprehensive benefits, 2) low premiums that are rolled into your tuition and 3) provider networks that include on-campus care if your school offers student health services.
Student health insurance can be a good fit if you 1) are uninsured, 2) want coverage that is less expensive than what you currently have, or 3) need a plan with an Arkansas provider network.
What If You Get Covered Through the Affordable Care Act in Arkansas?
An ACA plan can be a cost-effective choice if you qualify for subsidies. This comprehensive coverage includes the 10 essential health benefits and is considered a “guaranteed issue,” which means you’ll qualify regardless of your health history, age, gender, and other factors.
You may opt for an ACA plan 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 Arkansas provider network.
- Don’t have access to a student health insurance plan through your school.
You can enroll in an ACA plan through the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace.
Catastrophic and short-term health insurance are two coverage choices that might work for you.
What If You Get Covered Through Medicaid or CHIP in Arkansas?
If you already have coverage through Arkansas Medicaid or ARKids First, the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), you can keep it if you continue to qualify. This is probably your most affordable option, but make sure you have access to nearby providers.
Medicaid and CHIP don’t typically transfer between states. If you’re enrolled in one of these programs elsewhere, you’ll need to reapply for coverage in Arkansas.
What Are Other Coverage Options in Arkansas?
Catastrophic and short-term health insurance plans are coverage options that might also work for you. They tend to have lower premiums than unsubsidized ACA plans, which can make them especially appealing if you buy your own coverage.
Catastrophic Health Plan
Catastrophic health insurance provides comprehensive coverage with a low monthly premium to people under 30 and others with hardship and affordability exemptions. Due to their high deductibles, these plans usually make sense for people without a lot of healthcare needs.
Catastrophic plans appear among your options through the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace if you qualify for them. They are not eligible for 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 only a month or two.
Because benefits center around unexpected healthcare needs, as opposed to preventive services and treatment for pre-existing conditions, short-term plans tend to cost less than unsubsidized ACA plans.
Arkansas state government code does not define short-term health insurance. 3 That means Arkansas short-term health insurance policies default to federal limits, which are an initial term limit of fewer than 12 months with renewals and extensions up to 36 months. 4
You can quickly apply for short-term health insurance online or through an agent. These policies are not a “guaranteed issue.”
What If You Skip Health Insurance in Arkansas?
A federal tax penalty for going without health insurance no longer exists. While some states impose their own tax penalty, Arkansas does not. However, going without coverage can be costly because you will be expected to pay for your medical expenses entirely out of pocket.
What Are State-Specific Rules for Arkansas Students?
Arkansas schools set their own health insurance rules. Check with your college or university to learn its policies.
What Are School Requirements in Arkansas?
Health insurance requirements vary by the institution in Arkansas. Here are some highlights from two of the state’s largest universities:
University of Arkansas
The University of Arkansas offers a student health insurance plan. It is optional for domestic students to take one graduate credit hour or six undergraduate credit hours. 5 International students must buy the student health plan unless they qualify for a waiver.
Arkansas State University
Arkansas State University requires all international students to enroll in the school-sponsored health insurance policy. 7 No plan is offered to domestic students.
The university’s student health center provides certain laboratory tests, procedures, and immunizations on a fee-for-service basis. 8 Students may use insurance; otherwise, charges are applied to the student’s account.
What Are Resources for Arkansas Students?
Your school’s website is a good starting point to learn more about its health insurance requirements and student health plan (if offered). It should also provide your institution’s COVID-19 safety protocols and guidelines, such as mask and vaccination requirements.
Learn about individual health insurance options through the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace, which is called My Arkansas Insurance. There, you can also estimate your subsidy eligibility, find local help and resources and apply for coverage.
Even if you think you know which health insurance is right for you, compare a few options. Gather quotes for different types of coverage.
Look at 1) premiums, 2) cost-sharing amounts, 3) plan benefits and exclusions and 4) provider networks to see which plan best meets your needs.
You might also look into supplemental health insurance to help with out-of-pocket costs not covered by your primary health plan.
If you have questions, contact the insurance company that offers the plan you’re considering.