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What are Health Insurance Options for Kentucky Students?

HealthCare Writer

Updated on July 1st, 2021

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 

Kentucky’s state health insurance code doesn’t require college students to have health insurance, but some schools do. 

You can remain on your parent’s health insurance plan until you turn 26, but make sure it covers healthcare providers where you attend school.

Some of Kentucky’s colleges and universities offer a student health plan, which may be optional or mandatory unless you have a waiver.

As you plan for college, don’t forget to include health insurance and determine a way to pay for the healthcare you will need while you pursue your degree. Students who attend school in Kentucky have several coverage options. We’ll explore the most common ones here.

Why Do Kentucky Students Need Health Insurance? 

Even if you’re young and healthy, you’ll need to see a doctor from time to time. Health insurance lessens what you pay out of pocket for medical services, from preventive care to treatment of unexpected or critical illnesses and injuries. 

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

Start your healthcare insurance shopping by assessing your health status and budget. For example:

  • Do you have pre-existing medical conditions or take prescription medications? 
  • What do you consider an affordable monthly premium? 
  • If you need healthcare, what cost-sharing amounts (deductible, coinsurance, copayment) are realistic for you? 

Next, consider the following:

Will You Attend School In State or Out of State?

If you already live in Kentucky and plan to stay there for school, you might wish to keep your existing health insurance. See if your plan’s network includes doctors and hospitals where your college or university is located. If it doesn’t, can you travel home to receive in-network healthcare? 

If you’re moving to Kentucky to attend school, you will likely be outside of your health plan’s provider network. Not all policies cover out-of-network care, or they will charge you more for it. Thus, your coverage levels may change, and you’ll probably want a new plan. 

First Step

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

Can Someone Claim You as a Dependent?

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) makes premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions available to those within certain income guidelines. Your status as a dependent might impact your eligibility for these 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 health coverage through a parent, make sure your healthcare plan includes network providers where you attend school. Even if it does, check into other coverages available to you. You may find less expensive coverage with better benefits that meet your needs as a student.

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

Your enrollment status may determine whether you qualify for school-sponsored health insurance. Some colleges and universities extend eligibility to part-time and full-time students, while others do not. 

Check with your institution to see what credit requirements are in place. If you are not eligible for a student health plan as a part-time student, consider enrolling in an ACA plan or getting coverage through a parent. 

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

You may find it’s convenient and affordable to stay on a parent’s plan. 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

This option tends to make the most sense if you’re enrolled in a college or university close to home. Some factors that help you decide include 1) the plan’s network, 2) whether you find a more affordable option and 3) whether the coverage meets school requirements (if there are any).

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

Your school might 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 through university health services.

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

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

Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans can be a cost-effective choice if you qualify for subsidies. They’re not only comprehensive, including the 10 essential health benefits, they are also “guaranteed issue,” which means you can’t be denied coverage if you have any pre-existing conditions. 

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 a Kentucky provider network.
  • Don’t have access to a student health plan at school.

You can check your subsidy eligibility and enroll in an ACA plan through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace. The state also provides ACA plan information through the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange. 

Moving to and from school is considered a “qualifying life event” that makes you eligible for special enrollment, a limited time period in which you can purchase coverage outside of the annual open enrollment period.2

If you are a dependent who comes to Kentucky from another state to attend school, 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 is still a factor in your subsidy eligibility requirements.3

Other Options

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

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

If you’re already enrolled in Kentucky Medicaid or the Kentucky Children’s Health Insurance Program (KCHIP), you may keep this coverage for as long as you’re eligible. It might be your most affordable option if you have access to providers who accept these benefits wherever you attend school. 

If your college or university offers student health services, confirm that they accept Medicaid or KCHIP. If not, search for nearby providers who do or see if your school offers a student plan that you can afford.

Medicaid and CHIP don’t typically transfer between states. If you’re enrolled in one of these programs elsewhere, you’ll need to meet Kentucky eligibility criteria and apply for coverage.

What Are Other Options for Coverage in Kentucky? 

Two additional options include catastrophic or short-term health insurance. Because these plans tend to have lower monthly premiums than unsubsidized ACA plans, they sometimes appeal to young adults who buy their own coverage. More limited benefits and stricter eligibility requirements mean they aren’t right for everyone.

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 tend to make sense for people without a lot of healthcare needs. 

If you qualify for them, catastrophic plans appear among your options on the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange. 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.

Kentucky short-term health insurance policies cap at 364 days, with renewals, allowed up to 36 months.4 You can quickly apply for coverage online or through an agent. Short-term policies are not a “guaranteed issue,” which means you can be denied coverage if you have pre-existing conditions.

What If You Skip Health Insurance in Kentucky? 

While a federal tax penalty no longer applies for going without health insurance that qualifies as minimum essential coverage under the ACA,5 some states impose a state mandate and tax penalty. Kentucky is not one of them. However, without coverage, you’ll need to pay medical expenses entirely out of your own pocket.

What Are State-Specific Rules for Kentucky Students? 

Kentucky’s colleges and universities, both public and private, set their own student health insurance rules.

What Are School Requirements in Kentucky? 

Student health insurance requirements vary among Kentucky schools. Check with your school to see what, if any, coverage it expects you to have and whether a student plan is available. Below are highlights of two of Kentucky’s largest colleges:

University of Kentucky

The University of Kentucky (UK) recommends that domestic (U.S.) students carry health insurance and offers an optional student health plan.6 

International students on an F1, J1 or J2 visa must have qualifying health coverage and are automatically enrolled in the UK Student Health Plan when they register for classes.7

University of Louisville

The University of Louisville encourages its students to purchase major medical health insurance and offers a voluntary student health plan to domestic students who meet enrollment eligibility minimums.8 

Undergraduates with six or more credit hours, graduate students with three or more credits and co-op students qualify for this coverage. 

All international students with J- or F-status visas are required to purchase the student health insurance policy.9

What Are Resources for Kentucky Students

Your school’s website is a helpful starting point if you want to learn more about student health insurance plans. It might also provide your school’s COVID-19 safety protocols and requirements, as well as where to find the most up-to-date information.  

If you’re considering an individual ACA plan or coverage through a program such as Medicaid or CHIP, Kentucky’s Health Benefit Exchange offers information tailored to college and university students, including where to find help with the shopping and enrollment process. 

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 visit Kentucky’s Health Benefit Exchange to find local help. 



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

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

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

  4. Bulletin 2018-02 Re: Requirements for Marketing and Sale of Short-Term Limited Duration Insurance Policies Sold in Kentucky. insurance.ky.gov. Accessed May 2021.

  5. No health insurance? See if you’ll owe a fee. healthcare.gov. Accessed May 2021.

  6. Health Fee & Health Coverage. ukhealthcare.uky.edu. Accessed May 2021.

  7. Health Insurance. international.uky.edu. Accessed May 2021.

  8. Insurance. louisville.edu. Accessed May 2021.

  9. International Students. louisville.edu. Accessed May 2021.