Graduates Lose Insurance Coverage, Risk It All

A clumsy 2008 graduate who receives a diploma this year and then falls off the stage at graduation, might find themselves in a world of pain . . . in more ways than one.

Health and finances are at risk this May for many college grads just because they strut their stuff across that stage.

For many students, graduation means losing health insurance coverage, usually at the end of May.

Approximately 40 percent of new college graduates remained without health insurance for at least several months after graduation, according to a study by the Commonwealth Fund, a private health advocacy group.

“Any time you have a gap in insurance, you run into trouble,” said Sharon Schaefer, the clinical director for UT’s Health and Counseling Center.

Most students are covered by their parent’s plans until they reach a certain age or are no longer full-time students. For seniors coverage usually ends at the end of the month of commencement.

“Right now I’m covered through my mom. I have no idea when my coverage is going to end,” said UT senior Vivian Hauck.

Many universities, including the University of Tampa, have supplemental policies to keep students protected. UT students are automatically enrolled in an insurance plan as long as they are taking at least 12 credit hours. The plan is designed to help relieve the financial burden of unanticipated expenses arising from accidents and illness.

Schaefer said students are so used to not paying for health costs and not worrying about being seen in a timely manner, that they don’t appreciate how expensive it really is outside of the university world.

UT coverage is lost soon after graduation and many don’t realize it could be financially disastrous to go unprotected.

There is a small cushion for spring grads at UT because their coverage lasts until the end of July. December grads aren’t so lucky; their coverage is up by January.

“Absolutely buy some insurance because some is better than none,” said Schaefer. “A trip to the ER can cost thousands of dollars.”

To put it in perspective, according to The Wall Street Journal, a bout of pneumonia can run about $16,000; a one-day stay in the hospital averages more than $3,000; and an appendectomy can cost more than $12,000.

While landing the dream job with great benefits is a possibility, the reality is most insurance providers require a wait period before benefits kick in. Wait periods can range from 90 days to over six months.

“I haven’t thought about it, but I think I can get some kind of coverage through my job,” said Jennifer Smietana, another UT senior.

The risk for going uninsured sometimes seems to outweigh the benefits for many college students because they consider themselves to be young and healthy.

Even during college years, about 20 percent of full-time students ages 19 to 23 years old go uninsured, according to the survey.

“My plan is to hopefully not get sick. I have a tendency to be accident prone and sick, so it’s scary to be without insurance right now,” said UT senior Amanda Brandt.

The cost of insurance can be high, as well. For example, the cost of an individual policy for a 23-year-old female living in Florida can run on average over $1,200 a year. Students often opt to save the money for new “adult” expenses.

“My priorities are having a job and having money to be able to live,” said Brandt.

There are options out there that are both affordable and smart for grads. One prospect for those being covered by their parents is a COBRA (which stands for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985, the federal law that protects a worker’s right to continue health benefits) extension. Grads can continue coverage for up to 36 months under COBRA and there are no exclusions for pre-existing conditions.

Through UT’s insurance program, Student Resources, grads can purchase a short-term policy to avoid a gap in coverage, so when the dream job’s benefits do kick in dropping the extra insurance isn’t a hassle.

“Student Resources is underwritten by United Healthcare which is a big advantage because there are more providers in the network,” said Schaefer.

Health insurance is scary, but shopping for it is becoming easier with websites like, a licensed site that has partnered with over 160 insurance carriers nationwide. The site allows users to get quotes and information all at once from a variety of major companies without having to a lot of personal information. It is possible to get more than 20 quotes at a time with a feature that allows a close-up comparison of up to four selections.

Whatever the option, the importance of keeping health insurance coverage should rank right up there with sending out graduation announcements, planning parties and hanging that newly framed degree on the wall.

“If you don’t have consistent coverage, new insurers can deny you for pre-existing conditions for up to a year,” warns Schaefer.

Leave a Reply

Back To Top