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Uninsured?  Underinsured? Not sure about your insurance? 

When preparing for college, it’s hard to think of all the things that need your attention. One of the most important things to balance as a student is your health.  Being proactive about your health and knowing about your health insurance can help avoid distressing situations while at school. What if you have a medical emergency while away at school?  How would your medical bills be handled? Being aware of your health insurance status will alleviate confusion, should you have an accident or unexpected illness at school. 

In recognition of the importance of students having access to affordable health care, Penn State has created a position that will provide consultation on health insurance for uninsured and underinsured students and be an educational resource for students at University Park and the Commonwealth Campuses. 

The Student Insurance Advocate which is part of University Health Services, a unit of Student Affairs, provides individual student consultation as well as outreach and education to students and student groups around health insurance. The student insurance advocate will assist students in identifying insurance options, including the Student Health Insurance Plan for Penn State, Medicaid or Affordable Care Act marketplace plans. This new position also will help qualified students navigate the application processes for these plans. 

How to connect

The Student Insurance Advocate is stationed in the Student Health Center on the University Park campus but will travel periodically to the Commonwealth Campuses to provide support. Commonwealth Campus students can consult with the Student Insurance Advocate via video chat, email, or phone.  Individual students, families, faculty/staff, or student groups can schedule a time to talk with the Student Insurance Advocate by emailing or calling 814-865-4UHS (4847). The Advocate is also available to schedule a face-to-face, or video/zoom appointment.  

Currently, the student insurance advocate is not available to World Campus students. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if my health insurance will work for me when I am away at Penn State?

Call the member services phone number on the back of your insurance card and explain that you will be starting at Penn State.  Know the city or zip code where your Penn State campus is located and ask if your insurance has “in-network” providers in that area.  You may need to find your own transportation to your providers. 

Campuses vary regarding available services at their student health centers (some campuses have no student health center).  Some campus health centers offer student services for free or bill students at a flat rate.  A few campuses participate certain insurance plans. Research your campus and learn about the health care services they offer to students.  Visit our webpage for a list of campus health centers and contact information.

I am uninsured. Am I eligible for Pennsylvania Medicaid (Medical Assistance)?

There are income guidelines to be eligible for Medicaid.  If you would like to apply for Pennsylvania Medicaid, you may visit their website to apply (for assistance in applying, please contact the Student Insurance Advocate at 814-865-7467). 

*You must be considered a PA resident to apply for Pennsylvania Medicaid

According to PA State Law (323.2 Who Is a Resident, 42 CFR 435.403 (f)): 

An individual age 18-22 who is a full-time student in Pennsylvania will not be considered a resident of Pennsylvania if ALL of the following conditions exist: 

  • Neither of the individual's parents reside in the state of Pennsylvania; 

  • The individual is claimed as a tax dependent by someone who resides in a state other than Pennsylvania and 

  • the individual is applying for coverage for his or her own behalf.

If I am uninsured and not eligible for Medicaid, what other options do I have for affordable health insurance?

You can apply for subsidized insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace on-line through multiple sites, such as this quick guide.       

You may also want to consider purchasing the Penn State Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP), a Platinum plan available to students meeting the eligibility criteria. 

I am not eligible for Medicaid or Marketplace plans that are affordable for me, and I cannot afford the Penn State Student Health Insurance Plan.  What are my options to get my medications or health care services?

Some medications have Patient Assistance programs that you can apply for (with the help of your prescribing provider) to help balance the cost of your medications.  If interested, contact the Student Insurance Advocate to discuss this option.

You may be able to get health services on a sliding-fee scale (based on your income) at a Federally Qualified Healthcare Center.  Find a center near you by visiting the HRSA website.  

I need mental health services, but I am uninsured. What are my options?

Check in with your campus counseling center.  They may have resources to help meet your needs. Find your campus counseling center via the Commonwealth Counseling Services webpage.

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, find resources on our crisis intervention webpage

I am uninsured and had to utilize the local hospital ER (Emergency room) for emergency services. What can I do about my hosptial bill?

If you are uninsured and have a health or mental health emergency, you may become eligible for Medicaid for emergency visits or hospitalizations in certain circumstances.  The hospital may also have patient assistance programs to help lower your bill or reduce your bill to zero.  Call the hospital billing office and explain you are uninsured and ask about resources.  You can also contact the Student Insurance Advocate for guidance. 

I am turning age 26 and will not be able to stay on my parent’s health insurance. What are my options?

If Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) and the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHI)P are not affordable options for you, apply for Medicaid  or Marketplace plans.

I have lost my Graduate assistance (or stipend). How does this affect my health insurance?

If you are enrolled in 4 or more credits as a graduate student, you are still Eligible for the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP), but you will be responsible for the cost.  For more info on how to purchase the SHIP, visit the SHIP webpage.   

If you cannot afford the SHIP, you can consider applying for Medicaid if you are income-eligible  

If you are not eligible for Medicaid, you can look at subsidized plans through the Marketplace.