Frequently Asked Questions
Health Insurance Frequently Asked Questions
- Who is required to have health insurance?
Students in the groups below must provide proof of health insurance that meets a certain set of requirements, or purchase the Penn State Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP).
- Penn State undergraduate students enrolled in 12 or more credits
- Penn State law students enrolled in 12 or more credits
- Penn State graduate and medical students enrolled in 9 or more credits
- Penn State international students enrolled in 1 or more credit(s)
This requirement does not include Penn State World Campus students or part-time undergraduate students enrolled in 5 or fewer credits or part-time graduate and professional students enrolled in 3 or fewer credits.
- Do I have to submit a new waiver every year?
Yes, if you wish to waive the Penn State Student Health Insurance Plan you will need to submit a waiver every year prior to the start of the fall semester. New students who begin at Penn State in the spring or summer will need to submit a waiver application their first semester and then each fall semester after that.
- What happens if I miss the deadline to waive the insurance requirement
While students are strongly encouraged to take action prior to the wave/enroll deadline, there will be a four-week grace period after the deadline in which students can request to have the fee manually removed if they can demonstrate adequate health insurance coverage. To make this request, contact the Health Insurance office at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have used the insurance, coverage cannot be waived, and you are responsible for paying the premium.
- What if I cannot afford health insurance?
The University recognizes that the health insurance requirement may pose a financial challenge for some students. However, the financial risk associated with being uninsured is significant, and Penn State wants to be sure that all students are appropriately insured.
Students are encouraged to reach out to the following office for assistance in navigating financial challenges:
The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services provides health care support and medical assistance to need-based individuals. For more information, and to learn if you qualify, please visit:
To locate an assistance office near the campus you attend visit:
- Can I use financial aid to help with the cost of insurance?
Yes, students can add the health insurance premium to the cost of attendance, which allows them to use financial aid. Students must request this option through the Office of Student Aid.
- I am uninsured at the campus I attend. Why should I consider purchasing the Penn State SHIP?
Many students arrive at Penn State uninsured or underinsured and are not covered to receive health care services. Health care services can be very costly and unexpected expenses can be disruptive to a student’s academic progress. The Penn State SHIP provides students with high-coverage health insurance at a competitive price and is recognized widely at all Penn State campus locations and within the United States.
The Penn State SHIP offers a vast community of in-network providers at all campus locations, and additionally, throughout the entire United States.
There are no copays for visits to the Student Health Center at University Park with Penn State SHIP
The Penn State SHIP is a platinum-level health insurance plan with a low deductible and a capped out-of-pocket maximum. The Penn State SHIP is designed specifically for Penn State students and selected with the help of Penn State students.
- Who is eligible to purchase the Penn State SHIP?
Most full and part-time graduate and undergraduate Penn State students are eligible to purchase the Penn State SHIP, even if coverage is not required.
Students eligible for SHIP include:
- All current undergraduate students enrolled in six or more credit hours
- Undergraduate students who are enrolled in the Intensive English Communication Program (IECP); or those who participate in a cooperative work experience program as part of their required academic program
- Graduate Students enrolled in four or more credit hours. (Including Graduate Assistants and Graduate Fellows).
Please note: a change in student registration status that no longer meets the criteria listed above may result in termination of student health insurance benefits.
- Who is NOT eligible to purchase the Penn State SHIP?
- Undergraduate students enrolled in independent study through correspondence classes
- Undergraduate students enrolled in home study, correspondence, and television courses
- Individuals not enrolled at Penn State who are currently auditing courses
- World Campus students
- Am I eligible for the Penn State SHIP if I am a World Campus student?
World Campus students are not eligible to purchase the Penn State SHIP.
- How do I enroll in the Penn State SHIP?
Undergraduate students and graduate, law, and medical students without assistantships (domestic and international)
- Log on to LionPATH
- Go to the Health Insurance page
- Under current coverage year, select “Enroll”
- Follow additional instructions to enroll
Graduate assistants, graduate fellows and graduate trainees
(domestic and international)
Graduate Assistants/Graduate Fellows/Graduate Trainees are eligible for subsidized premiums for medical, dental, and vision insurance. New Graduate Assistants/Graduate Fellows/Graduate Trainees are automatically enrolled in the Penn State Student Health Insurance plan. Students can change their coverage, add eligible dependents, or update benefit elections in Workday.
To waive this coverage
- Log on to LionPATH
- Go to the Health Insurance page
- Under current coverage year, select “Waive”
- Enter policy details for an alternate health insurance plan
- If you choose to waive medical, dental, or vision coverage, you must also complete a benefit event action through Workday.
- Why have health insurance rates seen an increase nationally over the last several years?
Health insurance rates have seen a steady incline nationally over the past decade. This is due in part government policy changes as well as lifestyle changes among the population.
Health care costs have skyrocketed and those costs are passed along to the end consumer—this includes everything from diagnostic tests and procedures to hospital stays and prescription medications. In addition, chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease are on the rise in the U.S. They are expensive and difficult to treat.
All of these factors combined drive the cost of health insurance within the United States.
- Why are undergraduate student and graduate student health insurance rates different?
The undergraduate student population is higher than the graduate student population at Penn State. In a group health insurance plan, the cost of the associated health risks of a few people are spread over an entire group; the more people in the group, the lower the cost to the individual.
- How do I pay the insurance premium?
For undergraduate students and graduate students without an assistantship or fellowship, your insurance premium will be paid directly to United Healthcare Student Resources at the time of enrollment and can be paid by credit card or electronic check. Graduate assistants and graduate will have their percentage of the insurance premium deducted from their paycheck.
- Where can I find information on the benefits for the Penn State SHIP?
SHIP policy details are available on the First Student website.
- I am losing medical insurance. Can I get enrolled in the Penn State SHIP?
Yes, loss of coverage is considered a qualified life event. You will need to provide the Certificate of Credible Coverage or a letter from the insurance company that states that your medical insurance is being terminated and the date of the termination. This letter needs to be received by the Student Health Insurance office within 31 days of the termination date. The letter can be emailed to email@example.com or faxed to 814-863-1390. The Student Health Insurance office will then provide you with a prorated enrollment form to be completed and returned for processing.
Graduate Assistants and Graduate Fellows
Please log in to Workday and complete a new "Benefit Event." You will be able to upload your Certificate of Credible Coverage directly to the Workday system.
- When/how do I get my insurance card?
Medical ID cards are available online at www.firststudent.com. To print your card login and select "My Account."
- I did not receive my dental or vision insurance ID card. What should I do?
Dental and vision ID cards are mailed to the address listed in Workday. Please login to review your personal information to ensure this address is correct.
- Can I add dependents to the Penn State SHIP?
New Graduate Assistants/Graduate Fellows/Graduate Trainees must enroll their dependents through Workday. It is important to note that dependent coverage will remain the same for returning Graduate Assistants/Graduate Fellows/Graduate Trainees each year if they do not elect changes in Workday.
- Am I still covered by the Penn State SHIP if I am not enrolled in classes during the summer?
Yes, as long as you are actively attending classes for the first 31 days of a coverage period your coverage will continue through the end of the academic year, typically mid-August, if enrolled in the annual or spring/summer policy. Confirm your exact coverage dates on your policy.
- If I need to take a medical leave of absence from Penn State can I keep my health insurance plan?
If you withdraw from school within the first 31 days of a coverage period you will not be covered under the policy and the full premium will be refunded less claims paid. After 31 days of a coverage period, your coverage will continue through the end of your coverage period.
- Does my insurance coverage end on the day I graduate?
No, your coverage will continue through the end of your coverage period. Fall coverage terminates December 31, 2018, annual and spring/summer coverage terminates at the end of the academic year, typically mid-August.
- Where can I find a list of the preferred providers for the insurance plans?
Medical Go to the First Student website. Select your College or University to get started.
Dental (Graduate Assistants/Graduate Fellows only) - For in-network Centre County providers please see the student health insurance website.
For in-network providers outside Centre County please see United Concordia’s website for information on the Advantage Network.
Vision (Graduate Assistants/Graduate Fellows only) - For in-network providers please see the Highmark Blue Shield website- Click on Find a Doctor or Rx. Click on Find an Eye Care Provider.
- How can I learn if a particular test/procedure is covered under the Penn State SHIP?
The Penn State Student Health Insurance office can attempt to answer general benefit questions based on the current insurance plan policy, however, specific benefits questions should be referred to United Healthcare Student Resources.
- My claim was denied for no referral from Penn State University Health Services. Can I get a retroactive referral from UHS?
University Park students and their covered spouse must obtain a referral from University Health Services before receiving any medical care outside of the Student Health Center. Referrals are needed for each diagnosis/condition, and a new referral must be obtained each academic/policy year. If the covered student or their covered spouse does not obtain a referral from UHS, no benefits will be payable. After a claim denial, you can contact one of the referral desks at University Health Services to inquire if there is any exception to the requirement that the referral is written prior to medical care outside of the Student Health Center. In general, referrals are not written retroactively.
- Will University Health Services accept my private health insurance?
University Health Services will collect your private insurance information and attempt to determine if your policy is active. University Health Services will submit a claim to MOST private insurance plans on your behalf for services rendered at the Student Health Center. Any amount that is not covered by your insurance may be billed to you or your Bursar account after the claim has been processed.
University Health Services does NOT check your insurance plan benefits.
University Health Services can NOT determine if your insurance is accepted or participating
If you would like to know whether or not your insurance plan will pay for your University Health Services visits, your insurance company is the most reliable source to help you.
- Call the customer service phone number on the back of your insurance card.
- To determine if University Health Services is "in-network/participating," give the following information
- NPI # 1316063126
- Tax ID # 246000376
- Address: 308 Student Health Center, University Park, PA 16802
Your insurance plan can give you information related to co-pays, deductible, and plan limitations. Even if University Health Services is considered in-network/participating, you may still have charges related to your co-pay, deductible, or benefit package.
- Why doesn't Penn State provide a list of comparable insurances that are accepted for a waiver?
The University has gone through a competitive process to continue to offer quality health care benefits at a competitive price. Students have been part of the process for making decisions about health insurance for many years. The Student Insurance Advisory Board/Council (SIAB/C), which includes representatives from the Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA), the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA), the Commonwealth Campus Student Government (CCSG), and representatives from other international student organizations were invited to take part in the selection of a new health insurance carrier. These groups also provide input to University Health Services and its Student Health Insurance Office regarding the Penn State SHIP, including the selection of insurer, plan design, and mechanisms to manage costs. As the University has vetted the providers for the students, the plan that the University has contracted with is the only plan that is promoted and encouraged.
- What is health insurance?
When a large group of people (both sick and healthy) pay an established amount of money for some protection against future health costs their money is put together in one fund, called an insurance pool. When members of the fund get sick or injured and incur medical costs, money is taken from this insurance pool to pay for part or all of their costs. People in the United States are financially responsible for their own medical or health care needs.
- Who is required to have health insurance?
Penn State requires all international undergraduate and graduate students, and any accompanying dependents to have health insurance coverage. They must either purchase the Penn State Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) or submit proof of coverage that meets a specific set of requirements.
- Why does Penn State require international students to have health insurance?
Health care can be very costly and the United States does not have a national health care plan. Without health insurance, health services could be restricted.
- What requirements does my insurance coverage need to meet in order to waive the Penn State Student Health Insurance Plan?
Please see our health insurance requirements for all international students.
- What information do I need to waive the Penn State Student Health Insurance Plan?
To waive insurance you will need to be enrolled in a comparable insurance plan that meets the waiver requirements. You will need a copy of your active insurance ID card and your insurance policy brochure. Your insurance effective dates must be for the academic year or if later from your arrival date in the United States per arrival stamp on Passport/VISA thru the end of the academic year.
- Will the Student Health Insurance office review my outside insurance benefits policy to see if it meets the waiver standards?
Waiver applications will be reviewed through the First Student website.
- What is the website to enroll dependents or waive benefits for the Graduate Assistants/Graduate Fellows/Graduate Trainees?
- I am a Graduate Assistant/Graduate Fellow/Graduate Trainee who wishes to enroll in SHIP. I understand that enrollment is automatic. Do I need to do anything else?
Please visit the Workday website to acknowledge your student status and to ensure that your enrollment is processed.
- I didn’t receive my dental and/or vision ID card
Graduate Assistants/Graduate Fellows/Graduate Trainees who did not receive a dental and/or vision ID card should log in to Workday to verify that their address is entered correctly as part of their personal information. If your address is correct and you feel as though there has been an error, please contact the Penn State Student Health Insurance Office at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 814- 865-7467.
- How do I update my address in the payroll system?
Graduate assistant and graduate fellow address updates must be recorded in Workday.
International Graduate assistants/fellows Your address must also be updated through your department.
- What impacts the costs of the Student Health Insurance Plan?
Many factors impact the costs of health insurance for students. The Penn State SHIP covers all students, which includes graduate students as well as undergraduate, medical and law students, and certain categories of visiting scholars.
The primary determinants of health insurance costs are the medical costs of students paid by the plan. A platinum plan must pay out between 88 percent - 92 percent of the premium it collects as medical benefits. Additional costs associated with the plan include taxes and fees that insurers must pay to support medical and health services research, charges for administration and marketing of the plan, and risk charges associated with the size of the group being insured. In addition, since insurers in the United States are private companies, there are costs associated with the profits that the company earns to enable distribution to shareholders, research and development, and similar future expenses to be paid from retained earnings.
There are several ways that students and their families impact the overall costs. As health care consumers, the choices individuals make drive overall costs. If the group of students collectively make choices that lead to the insurer paying out more than 92 percent of the premium, the insurer is going to increase the premium in future years. Student choices about whether to use an in-network provider or out-of-network provider, whether to get good primary care or delay care in ways that might later require expensive emergency treatment, whether to get a flu shot, or whether to have a discussion with their doctor about the most cost-effective ways to address a health issue, all factor into the current and future health plan costs.
Another significant factor that impacts that cost of health insurance is the number of students that enroll in the plan. When a large number of students enroll in the plan, the statistical predictability of their overall health care costs becomes more reliable. When enrollments decline, insurers will increase the risk charge to prevent a situation where they collect too little premium to pay for the medical costs. So, a smaller group of students enrolled in a plan drives up the cost of health insurance for all students.
- Does Penn State cover the costs of health insurance for graduate students?
Penn State subsidizes health insurance (medical, dental and vision) for graduate assistants and full-time graduate fellows and graduate trainees.
The University contributes 80 percent of the annual medical premium for graduate assistants, fellows and trainees, and 75 percent -76 percent for dependent coverage.
The University also contributes 80 percent of the premium costs for individual and 70 percent for family plans for dental and vision insurance for graduate assistants (and typically for fellows and trainees, as well).
- Who at Penn State makes decisions about the University’s Student Health Insurance Plan? Are graduate students part of this process?
Students have been part of the process for making decisions about health insurance for many years. While insurers make the decision to contract with the University, graduate students serve as representatives on two groups, the Student Insurance Advisory Board (SIAB) and the Student Insurance Administrative Council (SIAC). SIAB and SIAC, including its student representatives, work with UHS and its Student Health Insurance Office regarding the SHIP at Penn State, including the selection of insurer, plan design, and mechanisms to manage costs.