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for KHN: Headed Away to School? Here’s What Students With Health Issues Need to Know
josé a. alvarado jr.
Dec 15, 2021
Location: New York City
College is a time of transition, but for those managing chronic medical conditions, it may also be the first time they will be wholly responsible for their own health: setting appointments, securing supplies and pharmaceuticals, and monitoring symptoms.

For those heading to schools far from home, it can be especially tricky navigating the complex world of insurance to pay for such crucial care. Coverage networks from back home might not cover a patient’s new doctors or a trip to an urgent care clinic. New plans may not cover the same medicines or procedures.

“Insurance doesn’t make sense to even people in health care,” said Jenna Riemenschneider, director of advocacy and special projects at the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Ensuring continuity of care and having medical support at school allow students to better pursue their studies and enjoy the college experience, health experts said. They recommend students and their families study up before heading to campus. Make calls to local or university health center providers and secure appropriate insurance to help make a smooth transition.

“You have to do some real due diligence to make sure you have the right protections,” said Erika Emerson, executive director of the Diabetes Leadership Council. “There are some things that are OK to whiff on, like if some things don’t happen and you learn a hard lesson, fine. Health care isn’t one of those things where there is a whole lot of forgiveness for mistakes that can be costly in terms of health outcomes and, certainly, financially.”

Photographed for KHN, with words by Sandy West.Headed Away to School? Here’s What Students With Health Issues Need to Know
College and grad students with chronic health conditions as common as asthma and diabetes may need to clear hurdles to make sure their health needs are covered by insurance if they go to school far…


José A. Alvarado Jr. is a visual storyteller devoted to documenting cultural and social issues, as well as human interest stories in the US and Puerto Rico.
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