Written By: Gale Proulx
Every wonder why college students don’t look both ways before crossing the road?
We are all secretly hoping we get hit so we can sue for our tuition. At least, that is the running joke.
As easy as it is to hope someone else will cause a grave injury, the issue of covering medical costs is very real. With most college students being debatably required to work when going to school, or starve, it can be hard to think about how much a broken arm will cost. In fact, Champlain College is so self-aware of how much medical costs accumulate that students can get a free cab from our Student Health Center to the UVM Medical Center at no cost to the student. Wild that Americans avoid an ambulance like the plague due to the insane cost of being transported in one. Fear not, this guide to healthcare will help you figure out what healthcare actually is, who you can go to for medical help and advice, and how much it could drain your bank account.
And now, enjoy the fake enthusiasm of the rest of this guide.
Stop teasing! What is “healthcare”?
Healthcare is some type of plan you pay into that will cover specific medical costs. It is indeed that vague. Not every healthcare plan covers every aspect of your life. Many healthcare plans won’t cover costs related to vision or dental maintenance. Some healthcare plans cover almost all costs, while some make you question what they do cover. The only way to find out what is covered in your healthcare plan is to talk to and retrieve the information from your provider either through phone, or preferably, their website.
If you are having trouble finding out who your provider is, you may not be paying for healthcare yet! Congrats, but don’t get too excited. Doctors visits are probably still not free unless you have your parents credit card. (More on that below.) Many college students are under their parent’s healthcare. If this is the case, call your parent and ask! On the off-chance you don’t want your parent to know you might possibly have a medical condition, just tell them a teacher is forcing you to research your healthcare plan for a school project. They will probably be delighted that your imaginary teacher is “getting them young folk educated.”
Why does my healthcare plan have confusing words?
Regardless of the type of coverage provided, every healthcare plan will have four main keywords that confuse the hell out of anyone: premiums, deductibles, coinsurance, and copays. Rather than making healthcare straight forward, providers have done a wonderful job at finding different ways of billing the patient. Here’s a slew of fun definitions to help you read a healthcare plan.
Premium: The monthly fee. Keep in mind a higher monthly fee typically covers more costs, but there is a higher monthly fee. Which one is the best for you? Completely depends on your medical needs.
Deductible: How much you have to pay before your plan starts covering costs. Yes, you have to spend money before you save money. A high-deductible plan translates to you covering most expenses until something really bad happens, like being hit by a bus on a crosswalk. Copays and coinsurance are different costs that you will still have to pay after deductible.
Copayment (Copay): The cost after deductibles. That’s right, even after insurance deductibles kick in covering most costs, you still have to pay a (hopefully) small portion of the cost. Providers think of this as a deterrent from people going to the doctors too much (because as a college student, I know the most bangin’ place to be on a Friday afternoon is my doctor’s office!)
Coinsurance: Similar to a copay, but instead of a hard-set amount of dollars, it’s a percentage of your deductible. For example, 20 percent coinsurance of your 100 dollar deductible would be 20 dollars. After you shell out 100 dollars, you are expected to pay 20 dollars for the next appointment. (Note: the math will never be that easy. You have been warned.)
Now that we have translated the medical-ish words into English, what’s next?
I have to research who accepts my healthcare? Hell yes!
That’s right, not everyone takes all forms of healthcare. Even if you have great coverage, you might be limited to very specific doctors/therapists/anyone providing medical services. This information is usually out there on the web, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find out whether or not your healthcare plan is worth anything. If you can’t find this information on a physicians website, just use your smartphone for that ancient phone feature.
Are we done yet?
Yup, that’s a majority of what healthcare is. Did this guide give you any specific answers? Not really. Do you know where to start now? Hopefully.