Published August 21, 2017

As fall approaches, millions of college students are heading off to school. They’re pondering if they’ll get along with new roommates, thinking about finding classes, and wondering how far their dorm room is from the cafeteria. Not on their minds? Health insurance, or where to go for health care

We put together a quick three-step guide to cover the basics, so you can focus on the more pressing matters of the new school year (class, of course).

Step 1: Make Sure You Have Health Insurance

First things first: students need health insurance coverage. There are a few options to find a plan:

  • Stay on a Parent’s Plan: Students under 26 have the option to stay on their parents’ health insurance plan. If selecting this option, it’s a good idea to contact your Blue Cross Blue Shield company to get details about out-of-state coverage if you need it.  
  • Student Plans: Many schools also offer student coverage, which can be a good option for basic care. Contact your school for details.
  • Health Insurance Marketplace: Another option is to purchase health insurance on the marketplace, which may allow you to qualify to receive financial help from the government to pay for your plan. You can also find out if you qualify for Medicaid.

Step 2: Know Where to Go

Once you have health insurance, take a moment to learn where you can use it if you get sick. Visit your BCBS company’s website to look for in-network doctors and urgent care centers near campus. This is a very important step because visits to an out-of-network doctor or hospital will be much more expensive, or potentially not covered at all, depending on your plan.

Many colleges also offer student health clinics on campus, which can be a convenient option for those with limited off-campus transportation. Check with your on-campus clinic directly to find out what insurance is accepted.

Step 3: Choose a Pharmacy

Whether you take prescription medication on a regular basis, or just need to combat an illness, it’s important to ensure you get the medications you need while at school. Students who take prescriptions on an on-going basis may want to consider using a mail-order pharmacy, which ships medications to you directly. This can be a time – and money – saving option for students. Contact your BCBS company to learn more about mail order options for your plan.

Since mail-order pharmacies require advance notice to ship prescriptions, it’s also a good idea to identify a local pharmacy for immediate needs. Some schools may provide pharmacy services on campus, but a quick online search can help you identify other locations nearby. Be sure to check which pharmacies accept your BCBS coverage before having your prescription sent there.

If you have questions about how to use your coverage at any point throughout the school year, the fastest way to get answers is by calling the 1-800 number on the back of your BCBS member ID card. You can also find your BCBS company on Twitter or Facebook.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is an association of 36 independent, locally operated Blue Cross and/or Blue Shield companies.