Finding the right health insurance can be challenging for college students. Whether you need routine care or coverage for unexpected medical expenses, having the right plan is essential. We’ve analyzed various health insurance providers to help you make an informed decision. According to our research, Kaiser Permanente is the best health insurance company for college students in 2024.

Why Do College Students Need Health Insurance?

Health insurance is crucial for college students for several reasons:

  • Routine Care: Regular check-ups and preventive care help maintain health.
  • Emergency Situations: Accidents or sudden illnesses can lead to significant medical bills.
  • Peace of Mind: Knowing you’re covered reduces stress and allows you to focus on your studies.

Top Health Insurance Providers for College Students

Summary of the Best Health Insurance Companies

ProviderForbes Advisor RatingBest ForMonthly Cost (Bronze Plan, 21-Year-Old)Average Deductible (Bronze Plan)
Kaiser Permanente5.0Costs$274$6,700
Blue Cross Blue Shield4.1Provider Network$358$7,173
UnitedHealthcare4.0Customer Satisfaction$274$8,177

1. Kaiser Permanente

Best for Costs

  • Average Monthly Cost: $274
  • Average Deductible: $6,700
  • NCQA Quality Rating: 4.2 out of 5

Kaiser Permanente offers affordable plans with a good balance of cost and quality. The average monthly premium for a bronze plan is $274, with a deductible of $6,700. This makes it an excellent choice for students who need cost-effective health insurance.

2. Blue Cross Blue Shield

Best for Provider Network

  • Average Monthly Cost: $358
  • Average Deductible: $7,173
  • NCQA Quality Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Blue Cross Blue Shield has a vast network of providers, making it ideal for students who want extensive access to healthcare professionals. The average cost for a bronze plan is $358 per month, with a deductible of $7,173.

3. UnitedHealthcare

Best for Customer Satisfaction

  • Average Monthly Cost: $274
  • Average Deductible: $8,177
  • NCQA Quality Rating: 3.5 out of 5


  • Often the most affordable option.
  • Coverage until age 26.


  • May lack privacy regarding healthcare claims.
  • Could lose coverage if the parent’s employment changes.

2. School-Sponsored Student Health Plans

Many colleges offer health insurance plans specifically for students. These plans are often included in tuition fees and comply with the Affordable Care Act.


  • Affordable coverage.
  • Convenient for on-campus care.


  • Coverage may end when the semester or school year ends.
  • May incur interest if rolled into student loans.

3. Health Insurance Through a Spouse or Domestic Partner

If you are married or in a domestic partnership, you might be eligible to join your spouse or partner’s health insurance plan. This can be cost-effective as employers often subsidize premiums.


  • Comprehensive coverage.
  • Employers often cover a significant portion of the costs.


  • Coverage is tied to your spouse or partner’s employment.
  • Must be married or in a domestic partnership.

4. Health Insurance Plan Through a Job

If you work while attending college, your employer may offer health insurance. Employers generally cover a large portion of the premiums.


  • Affordable due to employer contributions.
  • Provides experience managing personal health insurance.


  • Eligibility may depend on the number of hours worked.
  • Coverage is lost if you leave the job.

5. Affordable Care Act (ACA) Health Insurance

ACA marketplace plans are available through These plans cover a wide range of services but can be expensive without subsidies.


  • Comprehensive coverage not tied to employment or school.
  • Subsidies may reduce costs.


  • Can be expensive without subsidies.
  • Subsidies are generally not available to dependents.

6. ACA Catastrophic Plans

Catastrophic plans are designed for individuals under 30 and offer lower premiums with high deductibles.


  • Lower premiums.
  • Provides emergency coverage.


  • High out-of-pocket costs.
  • Not suitable for those with chronic conditions.

7. Medicaid

Low-income students may qualify for Medicaid, a government program offering comprehensive health coverage at low or no cost.


  • Free or low-cost coverage.
  • Comprehensive benefits.


  • Eligibility based on household income.
  • Limited provider networks.

8. Short-Term Medical Insurance

Short-term plans can bridge gaps in coverage but often have limited benefits and high deductibles.


  • Lower premiums.
  • Good for temporary coverage.


  • Limited coverage.
  • High out-of-pocket costs.

Cost of Health Insurance for College Students

Health insurance costs can vary based on several factors. Here are some average costs for different plans:

Average Monthly Costs for ACA Marketplace Plans (21-Year-Old)

  • Bronze Plan: $327
  • Silver Plan: $428
  • Gold Plan: $558
  • Catastrophic Plan: $248

Annual Health Insurance Costs for School-Offered Plans (2023-2024)

SchoolAnnual Cost (Fall and Spring Semesters)
Georgia Tech$2,997
Harvard University$4,120
New York University$4,346
Ohio State University$3,592
Rutgers University$2,741
University of California-Berkeley$3,858
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign$1,568
University of Texas at Austin$2,502

Tips for Finding the Best Health Insurance for College Students

Assess Your Medical Care Needs

Determine your likely medical needs, such as regular visits, medications, and lab work. This helps in choosing a plan that balances premiums and out-of-pocket costs.

Consider Coverage Options

Evaluate different types of plans and their benefits. Factor in costs, provider networks, and coverage limits.

Check Eligibility for Subsidies

Use the federal government’s health insurance marketplace calculator to check if you qualify for subsidies, which can reduce premium costs.

What does health insurance cover?

All Health Insurance Marketplace, or Marketplace, health insurance plans that are compliant with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) must cover these 10 essential benefits:

  • Ambulatory patient services for outpatient care.
  • Chronic disease management, preventive and wellness services.
  • Emergency services.
  • Hospitalization, including surgery and overnight stays.
  • Laboratory services.
  • Mental health, behavioral health and substance use disorder services.
  • Pediatric services, including dental and vision care.
  • Pregnancy, maternity and newborn care, including birth control and breastfeeding coverage.
  • Prescription drugs.
  • Rehabilitative and habilitative devices and services.

Specific services within these categories can vary depending on your state’s requirements. Plans can also provide adult dental or vision coverage and medical management programs, such as those that assist plan members with back pain, diabetes and weight management.

Plan benefits can also vary by insurance company. It’s important to read the fine print to determine what each health insurance plan covers and excludes.

Does health insurance cover dental? 

If you’re getting health coverage for someone 18 or younger, dental coverage is an essential benefit under ACA-compliant health insurance plans. That means it must be available as part of a health plan or as a separate dental plan. Adult dental care is not an essential benefit, however, so your health insurance may not cover dental, depending on your plan. 

Some plans include dental, meaning the premium covers both health care and dental. But if your plan doesn’t cover dental, you might be able to buy dental insurance separately through the Marketplace. If you do, you’ll have a premium for your health insurance plan and another for your dental plan.

You can choose between two categories of dental insurance through the Marketplace: low and high. 

  • A low coverage plan will have high copays and deductibles but cheaper premiums. 
  • A high coverage plan will have lower copays and deductibles but more expensive premiums.

Looking for dental coverage? 


Choosing the right health insurance plan as a college student is essential for maintaining your health and managing medical expenses. Whether you stay on a parent’s plan, opt for a school-sponsored plan, or explore other options like the ACA marketplace, make sure to evaluate your needs and budget. Kaiser Permanente, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and UnitedHealthcare offer solid choices based on different priorities like cost, provider network, and customer satisfaction. By considering these options and understanding the pros and cons of each, you can find the best health insurance plan that suits your needs.

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