When you’re getting ready to go to college, the checklist of what you’ll need is long: computer, backpack, a proper coat for the climate, dorm room supplies, etc. But if you have a bleeding disorder, there’s something else that needs to be a top priority on the list: health insurance.
“There are many expenses which can come with having a bleeding disorder, and you want to have insurance that allows you to be prepared,” says Marla Feinstein, senior policy and healthcare analyst for the National Hemophilia Foundation. “You don’t want a medical issue to be more of a worry than it has to be when you’re just trying to enjoy the college experience.”
What to consider:
Staying on your parents’ health insurance plan may be your best choice.
The good news is you can stay on your parents’ plan until you’re 26. But that’s if they have a good plan and you and your parents can continue to cover the cost. Now is the time to review this option, running through deductibles, out-of-pocket maximums and whether there are in-network providers near your school—probably less common the farther from home you’re going.
The student health plan is probably not adequate.
Your college’s student health plan may not be sufficient to cover someone with a bleeding disorder, and it doesn’t have to follow Affordable Care Act (ACA) rules.
“The problem is that student health plans for undergraduates aren’t as comprehensive as other plans,” Feinstein says. “If you need to, you can have it as backup secondary insurance,
but it shouldn’t be your only insurance option.” If you have a severe bleeding disorder, or even a moderate or mild one, and you get in a car accident or have a terrible fall, you will definitely need more coverage, she says.
“The student health plan also likely has a dollar limit of coverage that is very low in terms of covering expenses,” Feinstein says. “People think, ‘I’ll get off my parents’ plan and buy a student plan.’ They are potentially putting themselves in a huge bind.’”
Adds Sue Geraghty, RN, retired nurse coordinator at the University of Colorado Hemophilia and Thrombosis Center: “The student health plan may not have a prescription benefit, so therefore factor isn’t covered. And it may only cover healthcare that’s provided on the university campus.”
You may want to get your own ACA insurance.
Although there are certain requirements to qualify, this may be your second-best option. “This should cover the major issues that someone with a bleeding disorder would be dealing with, including factor,” Geraghty says. However, these plans often have high deductibles.
Check in with the college health office.
The staff can fill you in on whether their plan covers much more than most college plans. Also, they may have had other students with bleeding disorders, so they may be a helpful resource.
Finally, be sure to prepare before your first day on campus. “If you live in New York and you are going to school in California, you’ll need to know what doctors to see for your insurance and talk with nearby treatment centers to make sure they’re in-network,” Feinstein says. “If they’re not, it can make a major difference in the cost to you. The time to prepare is before a desperate medical situation.”
Geraghty adds that you need to know your health plan’s rules for emergency care. “If I’m away and I go to an emergency room, I need to call my primary care physician within 24 hours in order for the visit to be covered,” she says.
“I’d also recommend talking with a social worker at your hemophilia treatment center, because they can help you clear up the confusion on insurance and going away to school,” Geraghty says.