How many of you have young adults getting ready to head off to college? The Wall Street Journal wrote up a very interesting piece on what you should be packing, and I'm not talking about fridges, linens, and a collage of your favorite family photos. This to-do list won't require a trip to Bed Bath & Beyond, but it's just as important.
The article discusses a myriad of items to get in order, such as cash strategy and car insurance, but I want to highlight one in particular: health insurance. The rules have changed so much this past year and it's important for you to be prepared. As I mentioned in a previous post, the new health care law will allow many kids to stay on their parents' health plan until age 26, but that provision technically doesn't take effect until September. The WSJ says, "While some plans are offering the coverage right away, others won't adopt the rule until their plan begins in 2011." If your plan does offer the coverage, make sure you get details before you send your child to school in a different state. Why? Jen Kozin, a public policy major at Duke University, needed emergency surgery in North Carolina. Her parents assumed health insurance wouldn't be a problem since their family plan, Blue Cross Blue Shield, had always been good in Massachusetts, but the WSJ reports that the Kozins' plan "treated urgent care differently from regular care." While the Kozins were able to get things straightened out after a slew of phone calls (Blue Cross initially hesitated to pay Jen's medical bill), other families have not been as lucky.
A lot of schools try to sell you on their in-house health insurance plan, but Stephen Beckley, a consultant on student health plans, claims many of these offers are 'totally junk.' According to the WSJ, "60% exclude pre-existing conditions, have high deductibles, offer little or no prescription benefit or have maximum coverage of less than $100,000." Hannah Gomez signed up for insurance at the University of Arizona, but was caught off-guard after failing to read the fine print. The plan covered nothing until she paid $1,000 out-of-pocket and offered limited help with physical therapy - a huge problem after she tore a ligament in her elbow.
As you prepare your kids for this next chapter in their lives, remember what's most important and prioritize those items before stressing about them having the most stylish dorm room on campus. Your pocketbook (and child!) will thank you down the road.