Can low-income students get health insurance?

Like many college students, you probably dedicate most of your time to attending class and studying. This doesn’t leave much extra time for work or a steady income. But what happens if you get sick or get into an accident?

Over the counter medications aren’t always going to heal you or make you feel better.

It’s important to know that even with little to no income, you have options when it comes to health insurance that won’t break the bank. We know it can be time-consuming to research all of your options, so we came up with a condensed list for you to review.

This way, you can focus all your energy on more pressing matters, like applications and essays.

Talk to your parents

Most college students under the age of 26 can get coverage under their parents’ health insurance plans. Sit down with your parents and see if this is a viable option. Although being added to a parent’s health insurance plan comes at a much lower cost than signing up for one on your own – it may still be out of financial reach.

If this is the case, maybe you can split the payment with your parents and help cover some of the financial burden. After all, if you need medical attention, this will cost significantly less.

It’s important to know that many plans are state-specific, which means if you are attending school out of state, you may have some difficulties finding an in-network doctor. Before you add yourself to your parents’ healthcare plan, log in to their portal to see if they cover any physicians in the state in which you will be attending college.

Check with your school

Schools often have insurance plans available for students that come at a little to no cost. These plans generally only cover on-campus services through the student health center. This means, if you get the flu or an illness that can be treated with antibiotics or a prescribed medication, they’ll be able to treat you. If you fall down the stairs at your dorm and break your leg, you may not have coverage or that coverage could come at a very high cost.

For more information, login to your student portal and search for health services. You’ll be able to find everything you need there.


If you are truly independent, meaning no one can claim you as a dependent for tax purposes, then you might be able to qualify for free coverage through Medicaid. Medicaid qualifications generally depend on your income, if you live at home, and if you are dependent or not. Since this is a resource for low-income earners, college students who are not working and going to school full-time may qualify for this program.

If you are a student with a spouse or children, you can also get them covered under the Medicaid program, even if you have coverage elsewhere. To find more information, you should look at and see if this is right for you and your family. 

There are other healthcare plans available for college students, and you can find some great comparison breakdowns here. Just know that those generally require paying premiums, working full time, or even sharing costs with other members.

If you are the typical college student focused on their studies, not employed, or with a low income, these are the best options at the lowest cost.