Top 4 Exceptional Student Health Insurance Plans for 2023
Securing health insurance is crucial in shielding yourself and your loved ones from exorbitant medical expenses. Typically, dependents under 26 can remain on their parents’ health insurance plan, and many educational institutions offer student plans. However, if those options don’t suffice, you’ll need a Health Insurance Marketplace plan that provides both affordability and quality coverage. Keep in mind, you might qualify for a premium tax credit to reduce your premium. We’ve compared third-party ratings and provider benefits to aid your search for the finest health insurance for college students.
Outstanding Health Insurance for College Students of 2023 • Top Catastrophic Coverage: Blue Cross Blue Shield • Superb Mobile App: Oscar • Unmatched Customer Satisfaction: Kaiser Permanente • Excellent Virtual and Urgent Care: Aetna
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Student health insurance: TOP CATASTROPHIC COVERAGE: Blue Cross Blue Shield
Why We Chose It
Blue Cross Blue Shield stands out for catastrophic coverage due to its affordable premiums and exceptional ratings as a health insurance provider.
- • Inexpensive catastrophic plans in numerous states
- • 3-star or higher healthcare.gov plan ratings
- • 3.7-star average NCQA rating
- • Broad availability
- • Benefits and plan types differ by state
- • J.D. Power ranking varies by region
Although not accessible in every state, Blue Cross Blue Shield provides low-premium catastrophic plans in certain areas. In states like Maryland and California, Blue Cross offers the most affordable coverage available. Catastrophic plans suit college students who seldom require medical attention and primarily seek emergency coverage. Blue Cross Blue Shield plans consistently receive favorable ratings, with a minimum 3-star healthcare.gov rating and a 3.7-star average NCQA rating. AM Best also awards the company an A- (Excellent) financial strength rating, reflecting its outstanding ability to cover claims.
As BCBS consists of various companies, benefits and plan types differ by region, and J.D. Power rankings also fluctuate. For instance, the company ranks first in numerous Midwestern states but last in California.1 Depending on your location, you may have access to different benefits, but most members can utilize a 24/7 nurse line. Many BCBS members are also eligible for wellness discounts through the Blue365 discount program. Blue Cross Blue Shield is our top choice for Best Health Insurance Companies overall.
BEST MOBILE APP: Oscar
Why We Chose It
Oscar’s convenient mobile app allows users to schedule free virtual care, monitor deductibles, review claims, access lab results and prescriptions, and more. This earns it the title of best mobile app for college students.
- • Comprehensive mobile app with walking rewards
- • $0 virtual care with most plans
- • Catastrophic plans available in some states
- • 2-star healthcare.gov rating
- • Limited to 21 states
Oscar’s app integrates with Apple Health and Google Health, enabling users to earn up to $75 in Amazon gift cards yearly by walking. The company also offers catastrophic plans in certain states and generally provides low premiums for bronze and silver plans, although costs differ by state. For example, Oscar has the most affordable bronze plans in Florida.
Members enjoy various benefits, such as $0 virtual care with most plans and a dedicated care team. Oscar also provides every medical management program available in the majority of states, making it a fantastic option for those with specific health concerns.
However, Oscar’s plans only receive a 2-star healthcare.gov rating, and the company operates in just 21 states. Nevertheless, if Oscar is available in your area, its platform convenience and affordable pricing make it a strong contender. Oscar also ranks among our top choices for Best Affordable Health Insurance Companies.
BEST FOR CUSTOMER SATISFACTION: Kaiser Permanente
Why We Chose It
Kaiser Permanente consistently earns exceptional third-party ratings, indicating a superior member experience. This makes it our top choice for customer satisfaction.
- • 5-star healthcare.gov rating
- • 4.3-star average NCQA rating
- • Top-ranked by J.D. Power in all available regions
- • Affordable minimum coverage plans in some states
- • Available only in 8 states and the District of Columbia
Kaiser Permanente’s plans boast a 5-star rating on healthcare.gov, and the average NCQA rating for member experience across plans is 4.3 stars. Additionally, J.D. Power ranks Kaiser as the top company for customer satisfaction in every state where it offers plans.1 No other insurance provider garners such acclaim. Kaiser also provides various medical management programs, offering enhanced coverage for specific conditions.
Pricing for Kaiser Permanente varies by state. However, several states offer affordable catastrophic health insurance plans from Kaiser. Blue Cross Blue Shield may have cheaper catastrophic plans, but Kaiser’s customer satisfaction ratings are unbeatable. If affordable premiums are available in your state, we highly recommend Kaiser Permanente. However, as coverage is limited to eight states and the District of Columbia, it may not be an option for everyone.
BEST FOR VIRTUAL AND URGENT CARE: Aetna
Why We Chose It
Aetna’s plans grant policyholders the ability to schedule in-person visits at MinuteClinic locations, even on weekends, as well as free virtual visits. Walk-in appointments are also an option. These combined benefits make Aetna the ideal choice for virtual and urgent care.
- • $0 MinuteClinic visits with most plans
- • $0 virtual care with most plans
- • 3.4-star average NCQA rating
- • Mixed reviews for customer satisfaction
Aetna’s plans provide access to MinuteClinic locations nationwide in select CVS and Target stores. You can walk in or schedule appointments online for various services, with evening and weekend availability, and even have prescriptions filled on-site if medically appropriate. Most visits are free with most plans. You can also arrange free virtual care at any time. These benefits can help you save money on urgent or emergency care.
Aetna is generally well-rated, with a 3.4-star average NCQA rating and an A (Excellent) financial strength grade from AM Best. Although pricing varies by state, we found Aetna’s plans to be generally affordable, particularly for bronze and silver plans—for instance, the company offers some of the cheapest bronze plans in Texas. However, Aetna’s customer satisfaction ranking in the J.D. Power 2022 U.S. Commercial Member Health Plan Study differs by region.1 In states like Texas and Florida, the company ranks above average, while performing worse in other areas.
Best student health insurance : Final Verdict
The ideal health insurance provider depends on the options and pricing available in your state. In most states, Blue Cross Blue Shield offers the most affordable catastrophic plans for college students who don’t anticipate visiting the doctor and are willing to risk higher out-of-pocket expenses in emergencies. In some states, Kaiser Permanente also provides catastrophic plans and is our top choice for college students seeking the best customer experience.
Oscar and Aetna are excellent choices for tech-savvy college students who value convenience, as both offer mobile apps and $0 virtual care. Moreover, Aetna provides free MinuteClinic visits with most plans, making it an attractive option for students with nearby CVS MinuteClinic locations.
Student health insurance: Methodology
To identify the top health insurance companies for college students, we evaluated the following categories:
Customer satisfaction: We primarily used NCQA ratings and, secondarily, healthcare.gov ratings to assess this criterion.
State availability: This measure indicates the extent to which plans are available across the U.S.
Plan features: For each company, we gathered information and analyzed the availability of the following:
- • Types of plans: HMO, PPO, EPO, POS, and other plan types
- • Plan benefits: Programs to help manage asthma, heart disease, depression, diabetes, pain, high cholesterol and blood pressure, pregnancy, low back pain, and weight loss
- • Dental coverage: Coverage for child dental, adult dental, both, or neither included with health plans
- • Metal levels: Bronze, silver, gold, and platinum plans and catastrophic coverage
Cost to value: We compared physician copays, specialist copays, monthly premiums, and deductibles for bronze and silver plans across different age groups and two ZIP codes, representing the highest enrollment in ACA plans by state.
Premium tax credit reduction: We researched and compared the percentage of plan premiums eligible for reduction by the premium tax credit.
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