Heading off to your first semester of college can be both an exciting and emotional time, and not just for the student! One often overlooked item is insurance. Should your college student remain on the family’s auto policy? Are their personal belongings covered if there is a fire or theft in the dorm, or they lose them? What happens if they are sick and need to see a doctor, are they covered?
When it comes to insurance, it’s always best to consult your insurance professional for the details of your family’s specific coverage and where you might need additional protections. Below are some guidelines you can use to determine what questions you may need to ask your insurance professional to make sure you and your college bound young adult are covered.
While it’s a good practice to review your auto insurance policy every year, take time to review your policy before the start of school whether or not your student will be bringing a car to school. Even if your young adult doesn’t take a car with them on campus, it’s a good idea to still keep them listed as a driver on your auto policy. This will ensure they are covered if they borrow the family car while home for a weekend visit, as a passenger in somebody else’s car, or a driver of someone else’s car. You may also be eligible for good student discounts if they do well in school for some additional savings.
If your student will be taking a car to college with them, there are a few additional steps that will need to be taken. If the vehicle is registered in your name, you should notify your insurance provider of the new garaging address. If the student owns the vehicle, they may need to obtain their own auto insurance overage to property protect them, especially if it is in another state.
Most students who head off to college for the first time typically stay on campus in the dormitories, which means that they are typically still covered under your standard homeowners insurance policies under “off premise” coverage. However, some homeowners’ policies may limit have limitations, so it’s important to understand your own policy.
For many students who choose to live off campus, they will most likely not be covered by your homeowner’s policy and may need a renter’s policy which would protect the student’s belongings.
If you are bringing electronics like a laptop or smartphones it may carry its own stand-alone insurance. If you are purchasing any of these items new before move in day, check the item’s theft or loss policy as well as any coverage provided by your credit card company if you use it to purchase these types of items.
It’s much easier to prevent a loss than deal with the effects afterwards. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, burglaries constitute more than 50 percent of all on-campus crimes. Here are some tips to keep valuables safe while away at school:
- Leave any nonessential valuables at home. Students will need the basics like a cellphone, laptop, tablet, etc., but other expensive items like valuable jewelry, luxury watches, designer purses, or costly electronics should be left behind or kept in a safety deposit box.
- Create an inventory list. Students should make a detailed inventory of all the items they are taking with them, and revise it every year. Having an up-to-date inventory will help get insurance claims settled faster in the event of theft, fire or other types of disasters.
- Engrave items. Permanently engrave your students name on items like computers, televisions, smart phones and other electronic devices – this can help police track stolen articles.
- Encourage student to lock doors. Keep your doors locked at all times, this includes your dorm and your car if you have one on campus. Most dorm thefts occur during the day, and even if you leave briefly, lock up.
- Keep an eye on your items. Don’t leave belongings unattended while in classrooms, the library, the dining hall, or other public areas. Keep book bags, purses and laptops with you at all times.
- Consider a security cable. Using a laptop security cable – a combination lock that needs decoding – may be just enough to dissuade a thief.
- Be safety aware. When it comes to fires while on campus, most fires are related to cooking on hot plates or microwaves. Never leave your food unattended while it’s cooking or put anything flammable near the cooking source.
Under the Affordable Care Act, students have more options to keep or obtain health coverage. Here are several options that may be available to students.
- Parent’s Health Plans – As part of the Affordable Care Act, young adults can stay on a parent’s health care plans until their 26th birthday even if they’re married, living away from home, are financially independent, or are eligible for employer-sponsored coverage.
- School-sponsored student health plans – Many schools offer Student Health Insurance Plans (SHIP) where the school pays claims directly instead of hiring an outside insurer. Schools are required to provide coverage to students that meets all minimum qualifications of the Affordable Care Act. You may be able to use financial aid to cover the cost of coverage.
- ACA Marketplace – for uninsured students who are not able to participate in their parent’s insurance coverage, purchasing an individual policy on the ACA marketplace might be the best answer. There are several tiers of plans to choose from depending on the level of coverage needed and personal budget and federal tax credits may be available.
- Medicaid – There are several requirements that need to be met in order to qualify for Medicaid coverage including earning up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level. Coverage typically includes low or no premiums and little to no copays for services. However there are limitations on choice of healthcare providers and not all states offer expanded eligibility for Medicaid.
The world of insurance can already be a very confusing space, add in heading to college for the first time, and it can be very overwhelming. It’s important to review your policies before your student heads off to school and ask your insurance professional any questions you might have to make sure you are properly insured.
Washington Branch Manager, Assistant Vice President