Young adults

Health coverage options for college students

College students have several choices for health coverage. There’s no special student exemption from the penalty that people without coverage must pay.

Under 30? Get a customized decision guide

Answer a few fast questions to get a personalized guide that’ll help you make a coverage decision that works for you.

If you have a student health plan

  • If you’re covered by your school’s student health plan, in most cases you’re considered covered under the health care law. You won’t have to pay the penalty that people without coverage must generally pay. Check with your student health plan to see if it qualifies as coverage under the health law.

  • Even if you have access to a student health plan, you can buy a health plan through the Marketplace instead. You may qualify for lower monthly premiums and other savings based on your income.

When filling out the Marketplace application, choose “No” when answering whether you currently have health coverage. Choose “No” even if you have a student health plan now and plan to drop it in order to enroll in a Marketplace plan.

Filing a tax return

  • If your income is low and you therefore don’t have to file a federal tax return (PDF), you won’t have to pay the penalty, even if you don’t have coverage. (The filing limit in 2014 was about $10,150 gross income per year for an individual.)

  • But if you want to qualify for lower costs on an insurance plan based on your income, you must file a tax return for the year of the coverage. This is true no matter how low your income is.

Catastrophic health plans

If you’re under 30, you can buy a catastrophic health plan. These plans usually have lower monthly premiums but high deductibles. This means you pay for most of your care yourself, up to a certain amount. After that, the insurance company pays its share for covered services. A catastrophic plan is an affordable way to protect yourself from worst-case scenarios, like serious accidents or illnesses.

Learn more about catastrophic health plans.

Coverage on a parent’s plan

You may be able to be covered under a parent’s health insurance plan until you turn 26.

Medicaid coverage

When you fill out a Marketplace application, you’ll also find out whether you qualify for coverage through Medicaid, a combined state and federal program that provides coverage to people with limited incomes, disabilities, and some family situations.

Some states are expanding Medicaid to cover all adults below a certain income level. Find out if your state is expanding Medicaid and what it means for you.