RICHMOND — August means back to school for many students heading to college. In addition to new courses, teachers, friends, surroundings and living accommodations, it also can mean new insurance needs.
The State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Bureau of Insurance encourages Virginians to include on their back-to-school checklist a thorough review of their student’s insurance needs. “Protect yourself and your family financially by ensuring your students are properly covered before they head to college,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Scott A. White. “Review insurance coverage for their health, auto, living space and belongings and make sure they understand the coverage.”
The Bureau offers the following insurance considerations for parents and students:
College students have several options for getting health insurance. Under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA), students may be able to stay on their parents’ health insurance until they turn 26 years old. If your student remains on your health insurance policy, make sure they have a copy of the relevant insurance cards and understand how to obtain referrals and approvals, if necessary, before seeking treatment. Under some health insurance policies, your student would need to find a physician or hospital within the carrier’s provider network – except for emergency care – or pay more out of pocket.
Students who do not have health insurance through a parent's policy, or who have limited coverage due to provider networks or service areas, may opt to purchase a student health insurance plan through their college or university. Students also can apply for a private health insurance plan through the federally facilitated health insurance marketplace. Enrollment begins November 1, and students can select a plan based on the level of coverage they want to purchase. To learn more, visit healthcare.gov.
College students often take many valuable items with them to school including computers, printers,
televisions, bicycles and cell phones. Consider how much it would cost to replace everything in their dorm or apartment should a theft or disaster occur.
For students who live in campus housing, their parents’ homeowners or renters policy will likely cover their belongings if they are stolen or damaged. However, there may be limits to the amount of coverage provided. Some items such as jewelry or expensive electronics may require special coverage. In the event of a loss, policy deductibles may also apply.
Students living off campus should consider renters insurance, an inexpensive form of coverage that protects your personal property and insures you in case someone is injured while on your property. Landlords’ policies generally only cover the structure, not the possessions of renters. Renters insurance premiums vary depending on the location and size of the rental unit and the value of your possessions.
No matter where you live, it's a good idea to have a list of your belongings. A home inventory will help you determine how much insurance you need and, if something happens, you can use it to file a claim. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) offers a free smartphone app – myHOMEScr.APP.book – that makes creating a home inventory easy.
For students planning to take a car to school, parents should ask their insurance agent or company about coverage availability and rates for the city and state where the college is located before deciding whether to keep the student’s car on the family policy. Also, make sure you know that state’s minimum requirements for auto insurance coverage. Students who maintain good grades may be eligible for a good student discount on the vehicle’s insurance premium.
Students whose names are on the title for a car must purchase their own policy, but they may be able to stay on their parents' policy if their parents own the vehicle they will use at school. Let your insurance agent know where the vehicle will be stored if the address is different from what is on the policy.
If a student is involved in an auto accident, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ WRECKCHECK smartphone app will walk that student through the process of gathering information immediately following an accident. This free app is available at smartphone app stores.
The Bureau of Insurance encourages parents and students to shop around and compare prices and terms. Read any insurance policy carefully and make sure you understand exactly what is covered and any deductibles or limits that apply. If you have questions or concerns, contact your insurance agent or company.
For more information, contact the Bureau of Insurance toll-free at 1-877-310-6560 or in Richmond at 804-371-9741 or visit www.scc.virginia.gov/boi. The Bureau has specially trained staff who can assist consumers with their general questions or concerns about insurance. Additional information also may be found on the National Association of Insurance Commissioners' InsureU website at www.insureuonline.org.