As your child prepares to head off to college, probably the last thing on his or her mind (and yours) is health insurance. But getting sick or injured away from home can be an unpleasant experience–more so if your child doesn’t know his or her health-care options. You’ll want to make sure that your child’s health insurance is in place before you pack up the car. There are basically two ways to insure your child’s health while at college: your family health plan or a health plan provided through the college.

Your family health plan

Most family health plans will cover your child until 20 to 24 years of age as a full-time student who’s still dependent on you, regardless of whether he or she lives at home. If you have a traditional indemnity plan (i.e., one that provides coverage no matter which doctor you choose), then your child should be able to see any doctor near campus, and your insurer should cover a certain percentage of the expenses as set forth in your plan. The situation is more complicated when you have a health maintenance organization (HMO) plan and your child’s college is not nearby. In this case, your child may need to schedule appointments with his or her primary care doctor during school breaks and other visits home. But it may be difficult or impossible for your child to visit his or her primary care doctor in an urgent situation.

If your child isn’t covered under your family health plan because he or she no longer fits the definition of a dependent child, your child may be eligible for coverage under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). This is an individual plan that’s based on the benefits in your group plan. Under COBRA, your child will be eligible for coverage up to 36 months.

The college health plan

The other option is for you to purchase health insurance coverage through your child’s college. Many colleges offer low-cost health plans for students that may even be less expensive than continuing coverage through your existing family plan. These health plans, though not as comprehensive as some policies, are usually enough to get by on, even if your child becomes seriously ill or has a major accident. The reason that these plans are less expensive than your own plan is the cap they place on total benefits paid (e.g., $ 250,000). Make sure that you know what the maximum benefit is and that you’re comfortable having coverage up to that limit.

The cost and level of coverage of college health plans can vary greatly from one school to the next. Plans are usually designed specifically for each individual college, and the health services available on campus and in the community often determine what coverage the college can offer. State laws may also play a significant role in the cost and level of coverage.

Questions for your college health plan

Because college health plans can vary widely in their coverage, you’ll want to consider the following questions before you sign your child up:

Is the plan an HMO, or can your child use any health provider?
What services are offered free or at low cost in the campus health center?
Is the campus health center open 24 hours? How is it staffed?
Are emergency-room visits covered in all situations or only in specific situations?
Does the plan cover your child when he or she is on vacation (e.g., spring break)?
Does the plan cover your child during the summer?
Are hospitals in the college area accessible and utilized?
Does the plan include mental health treatment?
What pre-existing conditions are excluded?
Are there deductibles and coinsurance to be paid?
What is the maximum benefit amount?


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According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Obama administration’s healthcare reform legislation is still sparking a variety of opinions. The organization, which tends to be sympathetic to the law, recently released its final poll before the November midterm elections. It consists of 1,200 adults surveyed in early October.

What were their findings? As expected, opinions continue to be divided. However, the figures have flip-flopped. This is interesting, since the bulk of the law has yet to be implemented. The few features that came into effect in late September (i.e. forbidding health insurers from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions) are generally popular with the American public. The ramping up of political campaigns may be to blame.

Highlights of the poll:

44 percent of the respondents are opposed to the law. This is an increase from 40 percent last month.
42 percent support the legislation, down from 49 percent in September.
Just 10 percent of the respondents consider health insurance reform to be the most important issue in
the November 2nd elections–jobs and the economy are more pressing concerns for the majority.
However, the most likely voters polled by Kaiser are leaning towards having negative views. Still, they were not found to be significantly likely to base their votes for Congress solely on that issue.

Those against the law have several reasons for their opposition:

The federal government recieves too much control over health care.
The law costs too much and will add to the budget deficit.
It is unfair to the middle class, in favor of the poor.

Supporters have their own view. According to them, the most significant benefits are:

That health insurance plan reform will
make coverage more affordable.
It is an improvement over the current system.
Previously uninsured people will be able to get health coverage.

The last Kaiser Health Tracking poll prior to the close of the 2010 election season proves that the battle over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will not end soon.

Yamileth Medina is an up and coming expert on Health Insurance and Healthcare Reform. She aims to help people realize that they can find a quality health insurance plan right now. Yamileth lives in Miami, FL.

I asked Kristi (a 32 year old woman who suffers from an extremely rare, serious and disabling neuromuscular disease called Stiff-Person Syndrome (SPS), as well as Myasthenia Gravis and Gastroparesis) while I had her on the phone, “If she knew then, what she knows now, what would she do differently?” One of the first things she said was to make sure everyone had disability insurance.

No one wants to think about being disabled, however, the reality is one third of all American’s between the ages of 35 and 65 will become disabled for more than 90 days, according to the American Council of Life Insurers.

What’s worse is that one in seven workers will be disabled for more than five years. This is not normally caused by a freak accident, most of the time it is caused by illness.

Disability insurance replaces a portion of your income if you become disabled and are not able to work. Check with your employer, they usually offer a group plan that will replace up to 60% of you salary. Supplemental plans and individual policies will usually cover more. Benefits usually last for a set number of years or until you reach retirement age.

Long-term disability plans vary quite a bit. Some are wonderful and pay benefits when you need them. Others are very difficult to work with. Usually this is tied to the amount you pay for the premium monthly. Some of the cheaper ones you may inevitably find worthless.

If you are employed, you should find out if your employer provides long-term disability insurance. Then, take a good look at the policy and see if it is enough. Many group plans have a benefit cap of $ 5,000 per month or $ 60,000 per year. See what percentage of your salary it will cover, bonuses do not always make the cut. Also, check the length of time they will cover your salary, usually it is limited (i.e. two years, five years, etc.).

Many of you may be asking, what is the difference between short-term and long-term disability? Short-term disability is also known as sick leave. This starts as soon as you are unable to work, due to illness, injury or the birth of a child.

In California, employers are required to offer 52 weeks of short-term disability.

Long-term insurance starts as soon as your short-term disability runs out. However, there are no state laws requiring employers to provide long-term disability benefits.

If you decide to purchase an individual long-term disability plan, or to supplement your employer’s plan, find out how much short-term disability coverage you have.

If you are self-employed or not covered by your employer, you will want to look into purchasing an individual plan. Even if you are covered, you will want to check your coverage and consider supplementing.

Hopefully Kristie’s advice will spur some of you on to look into Disability Insurance. Medical expenses are the number one reason people file for bankruptcy in the United States. I know Kristie does not want you to become another statistic.

Now is the time to prepare for the unexpected. Please take the time to read Kristie’s story (, you have to register, but it is easy and free). She needs your help now more than ever.

Mompreneur Kristi LeGue is a Certified Public Accountant and the mother of three young boys. She has owned Kristi LeGue, CPA a public accounting firm for over five and a half years. As a Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Kristi helps you understand your financial situation, clean it up and move forward financially stress free.

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