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Consumer Alert: Check insurance policies before students head to college

September 09, 2011

Consumer Alert: Check insurance policies before students head to college

For Immediate Release: September 9, 2011

Minnesota Department of Commerce and NAIC offer tips on health, renters, and auto insurance

ST. PAUL, MN - Remembering to pack everything a college student will need during the school year is a challenge. But understanding a student's changing insurance needs is sometimes even harder.

That's why the Minnesota Department of Commerce and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) are teaming up offer consumer-friendly tips to help college students and their parents review and update their insurance policies.

"College students across Minnesota are moving into crowded dorm rooms, buying their books, and starting their classes," said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. "But in the rush to begin the semester, students shouldn't forget to review their insurance coverage needs."

Health Insurance
Nearly all young adults up to age 26 can now stay on their parent's insurance, following the enactment of the Affordable Care Act. Prior to this, many health insurance policies covered dependents who were full-time students only until age 23.

Coverage with the new law extends benefits to adult children regardless of marital status, financial dependency, enrollment in school, or residency.

Before leaving home, students should obtain copies of their relevant insurance cards and know how to obtain referrals and approvals (if necessary) before seeking medical treatment.

If the student is insured by a provider network, check to see if he or she will be inside or outside the network service area while away at school. This will make a difference in out-of-pocket payments.

If your student's health care coverage has ended because of the maximum coverage age, or if coverage is limited by the network service area, another option is a student health insurance plan. In general, these plans have more limited benefits and more exclusions than traditional health insurance plans. Many such policies will also exclude routine examinations and injuries sustained while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Renters Insurance
Many students bring thousands of dollars worth of personal items with them to school, including electronics, textbooks, clothes, furniture, bicycles, and more. With an enrolled student living on or off campus, check with your insurance agent to determine whether your family homeowners policy extends to children away at school. If not, consider a renters policy.

Many renters mistakenly believe that a landlord's insurance policy on an apartment will protect them in case of a disaster. A landlord's policy doesn't cover a renter's personal belongings. A personal renter's policy will pay to replace stolen or destroyed property with items of the same type and value up to the coverage limit of the policy.

A comprehensive list of a student's possessions - including purchase prices, model numbers, and serial numbers - will help parents and students decide how much renters insurance is needed. It is also a good idea to have a detailed inventory in case of a disaster, as it will help parents and students in filing insurance claims following a catastrophe. Make sure to take photos or video of the possessions, and store the inventory in a secure, off-site location.

To learn more about how to take a home inventory, check out these tools and tips on the Minnesota Department of Commerce website. There is also a student-friendly mobile app that consumers can use to quickly and easily complete a home inventory.

Auto Insurance
A significant move away from home can have a big impact on an auto insurance policy. If a student is taking a car to school, check with your local agent about the existing vehicle insurance policy. Ask about the rates for the college's city and state before deciding whether to keep the student's car on the family's auto policy.

In addition, the insurance company should be notified each semester if the student maintains good grades. Maintaining a certain grade point average (GPA) might make your child eligible for a good student discount.

Identity Theft
Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the United States, costing victims more than $5 billion annually.

College students are more likely to be hit by identity thieves because they are generally unprepared to protect themselves when the steady stream of requests for personal information begins.

Identity theft insurance cannot protect parents or students from becoming victims of identity theft, and it does not cover direct monetary losses incurred as a result. Instead, this insurance provides coverage for the cost of reclaiming you or your student's  financial identity - such as the costs of making phone calls, making copies, mailing documents, taking time off from work without pay (lost wages), and hiring an attorney.

Check to see if your homeowners policy includes identity theft insurance, and ask your insurance agent if this extends to your student living away from your primary residence. If not, you might be able to purchase an endorsement to amend such coverage.

If a student is renting an apartment, ask if his or her renters insurance covers identity theft, or if that could be added to the policy.

For more information about auto, home, life, and health insurance options, as well as tips for choosing the coverage that is right for you and your family, visit www.insureUonline.org.