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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, August 17, 2006

College? What about medical?

By Mary Kaye Ritz
Advertiser Staff Writer


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Here are questions that may be on the minds of parents of Mainland-bound college students.

Ask your insurer:

  • What kind of basic coverage is offered for out-of-town dependent students? Who are participating providers? Do you have a clinic in that region if you're an HMO? What about emergency/urgent care?

  • What about dental or optical coverage?

  • How is payment handled?

  • How can we check the quality of care for the area where my student will be attending college?

    Ask your student's college:

  • What's available on campus? Can someone at the student health center write prescriptions?

  • Where's the nearest pharmacy?

  • What should be done in an emergency?

  • Do we need supplemental insurance?

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    Nora and Joe Leoni of Hawai'i Kai, debated buying supplemental insurance for their daughter, Katy.

    Katy, a New York University freshman, is in good health, and her mother knows if she needs basic care for sniffles and such, she can go the the school's student health center. For everything else, there's HMSA.

    "They don't really get sick, knock wood," said Nora Leoni, a mother of two. "If a child had a chronic problem, that might change everything for me."

    This week, Hawai'i parents sending their children off to college on the Mainland have been deep in immunization forms, packing tape and extra-long dorm sheets. The last thing parents like the Leonis have time for is reading the fine print on their health insurance. But making the choice for supplemental insurance comes with a price $1,376 a year for NYU's basic plan for Katy and seems redundant if your insurance covers the same items. That's why many Hawai'i parents are making an extra call to their health insurers.

    Leoni saves some medical appointments for home "I make sure they do their dentist and eye while they're here" but she's grateful her oldest daughter, Erin, had the student health clinic at Southern Methodist University in Dallas to help her when her allergies kicked up.

    HMSA spokesman Chuck Marshall said family health plans such as what the Leonis have offer coverage for full-time students up to age 24. Out of the area, HMSA licenses Blue Cross/Blue Shield, paying the same co-pay on the Mainland as here.

    "It's just like being home," he said, adding that once the 24th birthday passes, those college insurance plans start looking more enticing.

    If you are covered by Kaiser Permanente, full-time students could be covered, too, up to age 25.

    "If the college is in (one of Kaiser's) service areas, the plan is the same," said Lynn Kenton, Kaiser spokesperson. "If not, they'll be covered 80 percent for urgent and emergency care."

    It gets a bit tricky, though, when you get outside the service area: While urgent care is covered, follow-up is not, unless the patient returns to a Kaiser facility, and there is a cap for out-of-pocket expenses, which varies by plan. Kenton suggests parents contact their plan administrators or Kaiser customer service people for more information.

    The Leoni family weighed all this and decided to waive supplemental insurance and knocked on wood for a healthy semester.