Posted on 08/03/2012, by Jeremy Edsall
Include Insurance Considerations in Planning For College
Registering for classes, finding a place to live, and managing their money are just a few of the many challenges students face as they prepare for college. Making sure they have the insurance coverage they need is another important consideration.
The State Corporation Commission’s Bureau of Insurance offers tips to help parents ensure that their college-bound students have the insurance coverage they need for their health, vehicles, and belongings while they are away at school.
Federal law now requires any health insurance plan or issuer that offers dependent coverage to make that coverage available until the dependent reaches age 26. Until 2014, if the parent’s coverage is through an employer, and the dependent is eligible for coverage through his or her own job, the parent’s plan is not required to provide coverage.
The Bureau of Insurance encourages parents to make sure their students have a copy of relevant insurance cards and know about obtaining referrals and approvals (if necessary) before seeking treatment. If you are insured by a health maintenance organization (HMO), check to see if your student will be outside the HMO service area while away at school. If this occurs, the student likely will have coverage for emergency care, but might have to travel to a physician or hospital within the HMO service area for routine care. If your insurer is part of a preferred provider organization (PPO), your insurer may pay benefits at out-of-network levels if your student uses health care providers that are outside your network. Check your plan provisions or talk to your insurance company to find out what level of benefits your policy provides.
Students who do not have health insurance through a parent’s policy or who have limited coverage due to network service areas may opt to purchase a student health insurance plan. These plans are sold by an insurer that has contracted with a college to offer coverage to its students. They typically have more limited benefits and more exclusions than traditional health insurance plans.
Routine dental care and eye care generally are not included as part of a health insurance plan, although many such plans will cover non-cosmetic dental work that is medically necessary due to an accident, and most will cover medical care as a result of an eye disease or injury.
Other considerations for college-bound students and their parents include the following:
Renters insurance – If your student is enrolled in classes and living in on-campus housing, your homeowners policy will likely extend to his personal belongings such as electronics, computers, furniture, and clothes that he takes to school. However, your homeowners policy may include a special limit on personal property that is located elsewhere, so you will need to be aware of any such limitation. If your student is living off campus, a separate renters insurance policy may need to be purchased to protect his personal property in the event that it is damaged, destroyed or stolen. In either case, the Bureau of Insurance recommends creating a home inventory of your student’s belongings including purchase prices, model and serial numbers, and photos or videos. This will help you decide how much renters insurance your student will need and will facilitate filing an insurance claim in the event of a loss. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) offers an application – myHOME Scr.APP.book – that makes it easy to create and update a home inventory. The app is free and available for both iPhone® and Android® smart phone users.
The Big Move – Before you pack all of your student's belongings into a car or rental trailer, make sure the contents are insured. Ask your insurance agent or company if your homeowners policy will cover the belongings in your student's car or rental trailer before he gets to campus. If your student is going to live off campus, ask your insurance agent or company if coverage in his renters policy will extend to his belongings during the move.
Auto Insurance – If your student is taking a car with him to school, ask your agent or company about its impact on your existing auto insurance policy. If the car is going to be kept at another location, you should notify your agent or company about this change in garaging. Some insurance companies offer discounts for students who maintain a certain grade point average.
Identity Theft – College students may be vulnerable to identity theft because of the availability of personal information and the way many students handle this data. Identity theft insurance cannot protect you or your student from becoming a victim of identity theft and does not cover direct monetary losses incurred as a result. However, it does provide coverage for the cost of reclaiming your financial identity or that of your student – such as the costs of phone calls, making copies, mailing documents, taking time off from work without pay, and hiring an attorney.
Check to see if your homeowners policy includes identity theft insurance, and ask your insurance agent or company if this extends to your student living away from your primary residence. If not, you may be able to purchase a stand-alone policy from another insurer, bank, or credit card company. If your student is renting an apartment, ask if his renters insurance covers identity theft, or if it could be added to the policy.
For more information about auto, home, renters, life, and health insurance, as well as tips for choosing the coverage that is right for you and your family, contact the SCC’s Bureau of Insurance toll-free at 1-877-310-6560 or by email at BureauofInsurance@scc.virginia.gov or visit its website at http://www.scc.virginia.gov/boi. Consumers who are deaf or who are hearing or speech impaired may call through the SCC’s Telecommunications Device for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (TDD) at (804) 371-9206. Additional information may also be found on the NAIC website at http://www.insureUonline.org.