What You Need to Know
Florida state law requires international students to have health insurance; otherwise, requirements vary by school.
You can stay on a parent’s health plan until age 26, but check to see if in-network care for their plan is available where you attend college, especially if you’re coming to Florida from out-of-state.
All four-year state universities in Florida require students to pay a health fee and international students must have adequate health insurance.
Health insurance may not be top of mind when you’re planning for college in Florida. Still, it’s an important consideration. How will you pay for healthcare if you get sick or have an accident? Fortunately, Florida students have a variety of coverage options.
Why Do College Students Need Health Insurance?
Even if you’re healthy, you may need to see a doctor if you become ill or injured unexpectedly. A comprehensive health insurance plan helps with the cost of medical bills — from preventive care to emergency services — ensuring you don’t rack up medical debt, especially while you’re paying for college.
What Should You Consider When Searching for Student Health Coverage in Florida?
You have a variety of choices when it comes to coverage, but the biggest factors to take into account are your health (whether you have any medical conditions and/or take medication) and your budget. Ask yourself these questions, too, as you’re sizing up which type of plan is right for you:
Will You Attend School In State or Out of State?
It’s likely you’ll be outside your existing health insurance plan’s provider network if you’re coming to Florida from another state. Medical care you receive out-of-network may cost more or might not be covered at all, depending on your policy.
If you’re an in-state student, you should still check your plan’s provider network; it’s possible you may need to travel home to receive in-network care, so you may need coverage in the event of an emergency.
Can You Be Claimed as a Dependent?
If someone else — a parent or guardian, for example — claims you as a dependent on their tax return, their income will be used to determine whether you qualify for health insurance subsidies available under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Subsidies help you pay for your insurance.
If you are not a dependent, your own income will be used to calculate any subsidies (also called premium tax credits) and cost-sharing reductions to see if you qualify.
Will You Stay on Your Parent’s Plan or Enroll in Your Own Plan?
Federal law allows students to remain on a parent’s health insurance until they turn 26. This is true whether or not you’re attending school, living with your parents, eligible for coverage through an employer, financially dependent on your parents, or married.1
If you enroll in your own coverage and will pay your own premiums, cost will likely be a big consideration. As mentioned above, whether or not you are a dependent will factor into your ACA subsidy amount. If you don’t qualify for subsidies and find it difficult to pay full price for an ACA plan, you’ll want to look at some of the options mentioned below, including a student health plan, catastrophic health insurance or short-term health insurance.
What’s the Right Choice?
Your health and budget are the biggest factors to consider when choosing the right health insurance, but staying on your parent’s plan (if they have one) could be the most economical choice.
What if I’m Covered Under My Parent’s Health Insurance in Florida?
Maintaining health insurance through your mom or dad could make the most sense if that coverage is affordable. It also means you get to continue the coverage you have without changing doctors or starting over with a new deductible.
Just make sure your plan includes network providers where you attend school, including at your campus’s student health center, unless it’s convenient for you to travel home to see a doctor. If you happen to attend a school that does require insurance, you’ll want to make sure your parent’s plan meets any applicable coverage standards set by that school.
What If I Get Covered Under a Student Health Plan in Florida?
Many colleges and universities endorse student health insurance plans, which are optional for most students. This option can be especially helpful if your existing coverage doesn’t include medical providers where you go to school.
If you’re considering getting a student health plan, be sure you understand what health services are included, whether coverage may be used off-campus and during breaks, and if there are any eligibility requirements (such as only applying to full-time students or those with a minimum number of credit hours).
Enrollment in student health insurance plans is usually limited to the beginning of fall semester, unless you’re a new student starting in spring or fall semester. If you’re a returning student and you need coverage at another time of year, you may need to explore other options
What If I Have Coverage Through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in Florida?
An ACA plan can have lots of advantages. First, depending on your income, you may qualify for subsidies that help lower your costs, and any plan you choose through the ACA includes all 10 essential health benefits. These policies are also guaranteed-issue, which means your application can’t be denied based on a preexisting condition.
You can sign up during the annual Open Enrollment Period, which usually begins November 1. Otherwise, you may be eligible for a Special Enrollment Period if you experience a “qualifying life event” such as losing coverage after moving or turning 26 and aging off your parent’s insurance plan.
If you’re claimed as a dependent on your parent’s tax return, you and your parent(s) will need to fill out separate applications for an ACA policy and include financial information for everyone in the tax household. (They can indicate that they don’t need coverage and the policy would be for you.) You would enroll through the federal Health Insurance Exchange at healthcare.gov.
Alternative Options for Insurance
If your income doesn’t qualify you for Obamacare subsidies or Medicaid, you may want to consider catastrophic insurance or short-term insurance to cover you while you’re at college.
What if I Get Covered through Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)?
To qualify for Medicaid in Florida, you must fall into one of the following categories and meet eligibility criteria specific to that category:
- parents and caretaker relatives of children
- pregnant women
- former foster care individuals
- non-citizens with medical emergencies
- aged or disabled individuals not currently receiving Supplemental Security Income
You can apply through the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) if you think you might be eligible for Medicaid there. If you already have coverage through Florida KidCare, the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program, you can keep that aid until you turn 19.2
If you have Medicaid or CHIP coverage in another state, it won’t carry over to Florida to cover you while you’re going to school there.
What Are Other Student Coverage Options?
If the options mentioned above don’t meet your needs, or if you don’t qualify for ACA subsidies or Medicaid and can’t otherwise afford insurance, you might consider one of the following:
Catastrophic Health Insurance
Available to young adults under the age of 30 and others with hardship and affordability exemptions, catastrophic health plans provide low-cost coverage. These policies include all ACA essential health benefits, some no-cost preventive services and at least three primary care visits per year before you meet your deductible.
Because premiums are so low, deductibles for these plans are very high — $8,150 in 2020.3 Once your deductible is met, your policy pays for all covered services without copayments or coinsurance.
Use Florida’s Health Insurance Marketplace through healthcare.gov to see if you’re eligible for a catastrophic plan. These plans are not eligible for subsidies.
Short-Term Health Insurance
Short-term health insurance in Florida provides temporary benefits that help with unforeseen medical expenses. In Florida, short-term policies can last anywhere from 30 days to 364 days, with renewals up to a total of 36 months.4
Short-term insurance premiums are typically much less ACA premiums. So these plans may make sense if you can’t keep your parent’s insurance, don’t qualify for a subsidy for an ACA policy and can’t otherwise afford coverage.
Short-term plans are not subject to the ACA, though, which means they don’t include all of the essential health benefits, plus you can be denied coverage based on your health history. They don’t cover anyone with a preexisting medical condition.
You can enroll in a short-term plan through a website such as Pivot Health or by working with a licensed health insurance agent.
What if You Skip Health Insurance in Florida?
Florida doesn’t have a state health insurance mandate requiring everyone to have health insurance, and there’s no longer a federal penalty for going without minimum essential coverage.
That said, your college or university may require students to have health insurance. School requirements aside, without coverage, you’ll pay 100% out-of-pocket for healthcare even through the student health center.
Are There State-Specific Rules for Florida Students?
Florida’s student-specific rules include a state-mandated student health fee at all four-year state universities and a requirement that all international students must have health insurance coverage that meets state criteria.5
Every school establishes how the fee is used toward campus health initiatives. Many use funds to offset the cost of campus health and counseling services. At some universities, the health fee ensures students have access to primary care visits and certain preventive care services at no cost, as well as discounts on other medical care.
Private colleges may or may not charge a health fee as part of tuition. Many of Florida’s private schools automatically enroll their degree-seeking students (both American and international) in a school-endorsed health insurance plan, which students have the option to waive.
What Are School Requirements in Florida?
Each school sets its own health insurance requirements, so check with yours. Here are two examples from Florida colleges and universities with large enrollments:
University of Central Florida (UCF)
UCF encourages domestic (American) undergraduate students to have health insurance, but it isn’t required unless specified by their academic program.6 UCF Health Services is a network provider for a number of health plans and the university endorses a plan available to both undergraduate and graduate students.
Florida International University (FIU)
FIU doesn’t require American undergraduates to have health insurance. However, specific degree programs, such as nursing, may set their own requirements. The university does offer a student health plan to full-time students who take at least 50% of their credits on campus.7
Health Insurance Resources for Florida Students
Navigating the health insurance landscape can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re doing it on your own for the first time. But you don’t have to go it alone; there are plenty of resources to help you along the way. Start with these:
Healthcare.gov: The Federal Health Insurance Exchange: Through this website, you can shop for and compare ACA plans available in Florida. It’s possible to preview plans and rates based on your income without logging in, which makes it a useful starting point for comparing the cost of an Obamacare plan with your other options. This is also where you enroll during the Open Enrollment Period or, if you qualify, a Special Enrollment Period
FloridaHealthFinder.gov: This consumer resource from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration is a fairly comprehensive resource when it comes to seeking healthcare in Florida. You can search for medical facilities and providers, learn about patient rights related to topics such as billing and payment, access a number of healthcare-related consumer guides such as “A Patient’s Guide to a Hospital Stay,” find resources for filing complaints against providers and insurers, research financial resources, and much more. The site also provides resources for learning more about Florida’s COVID-19 situation.
Health Insurance and Health Maintenance Organizations, a Guide for Consumers: This comprehensive guide from the Florida Department of Financial Services provides a ton of detail about health insurance, including different types of coverage, the Affordable Care Act, definitions of terms, and tips on comparing plans.
Your school’s website: While a number of Florida’s state colleges and universities do not require students to have health insurance, many provide information related to school-endorsed plans and other options. This information is often found in the student services or student affairs sections of the website.
Now that you know about the health insurance options available to you as a student in Florida, it’s time to think about which one is right for you. If you have a parent helping you choose, sit down with them to discuss how you’ll be covered and who will pay your health insurance premiums and any other costs that may come up at college.
You may want to gather a few quotes and start comparison shopping. If you think you qualify for a subsidy on your own or with a parent, look into what an ACA plan will cost you in Florida.
Investigate what, if any, student health plan your school endorses, too. If you can continue on your parent’s plan, look at how it stacks up against other options. In addition to the cost of monthly premiums, consider the annual deductible, provider networks (can you see the providers you want to see, especially near school?) and prescription drug coverage and other plan benefits.
If you need more guidance, reach out to a health insurance agent licensed in the state of Florida or visit the federal Health Insurance Exchange to find over-the-phone and in-person assistance. You can also contact an insurance company directly with questions about their plans.