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Before You Send Your Child Off to College, Make Sure Your Student Is Properly Insured
Updated August 18, 2017 7:06 AM
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(INDIANAPOLIS) - The week of August 21, 2017, is the start of classes for most students heading to colleges and universities in Indiana.

The Indiana Department of Insurance recommends that you check your health, auto and homeowner insurance policies to see if any changes are needed to your coverage.

If you're the parent or guardian of a college student, you should review your homeowner policy to ensure possessions are covered when your child takes them to college. Also check your auto insurance policy to see if the move impacts your rates, and check health coverage to find out what in-network providers are nearby. The Indiana Department of Insurance offers tips to help you review and update your insurance policies to cover your college student.

"Making sure your child is properly covered before moving onto or near campus can alleviate any unfortunate financial surprises from a claim denied by your insurance company because it wasn't covered in the policy," said Indiana Department of Insurance Commissioner Stephen W. Robertson.

Health Insurance

Before leaving home, make sure your student has a copy of the relevant insurance cards and knows about obtaining referrals and approvals (if necessary) before seeking treatment. Another critical lesson is for parent and student to learn the impact on costs if the student uses out-of-network healthcare providers. If your insurer is part of a preferred provider organization (PPO), your insurer may pay benefits at out-of-network levels even if your student uses healthcare providers that are outside your network. However, if your insurer does not cover out-of-network charges, identifying and then using in-network physicians and hospital services for non-emergency care in the new college location will result in significant savings on your out-of-pocket costs.

If you are insured by a health maintenance organization (HMO), check to see if your student will be outside the HMO service area while away at school. If this occurs, the student likely will have coverage for emergency care, but might have to travel to a physician or hospital within the HMO service area for routine care. Check your plan provisions or speak with your insurer to find out what level of benefits is provided by your policy.

If your student's healthcare coverage is limited by the network service area, another option is a student health insurance plan. These plans are sold by an insurer that has contracted with a college to offer coverage to its students.

Homeowner's and Renter's Insurance

As with any insurance policy, you should evaluate the benefit of coverage on an individual basis. If your student is younger than 24 years old, enrolled in classes and living in on-campus student housing, your homeowners policy will likely extend to the belongings they take with them. Please note that most homeowners insurance policies place limitations upon the amount of personal property coverage available for property located at residences other than the primary residence.

If your college student is living off-campus, you should talk to your insurance agent about whether your homeowner's policy coverage will extend to the rental property. You should not rely on the landlord's insurance to cover your college student's possessions. The landlord's insurance most likely covers structural damage to the building and may even protect against damage caused by tenants. Coverage does not extend to your college student's personal property, nor does it protect him/her from being liable for damage they might cause to the building inadvertently (e.g., a kitchen fire or plumbing mishap).

Another important component of renters insurance is liability coverage, including personal liability and medical payments to others. Personal liability can provide much needed coverage if, for example, a claim is made or a suit is brought against your insured college student for damages because of bodily injury or property damage caused by a fire in your college student's off-campus rental.

Renter's insurance also may provide necessary medical payments to others in the event a person on your insured college student's rental property becomes injured or an injury is caused by an animal owned by or in the care of your college student.

If your college student has unusually expensive items, such as fine jewelry or a musical instrument used in the student's course of studies, you may consider adding a "rider" to provide extra coverage. Your insurance agent can help determine if an additional rider is needed. Your agent will be able to help determine which coverage is best to protect your college-bound student.

A comprehensive list of your student's possessions -- including purchase prices, model numbers and serial numbers -- will help you decide how much renter's insurance your student will need. It's also a good idea to have a detailed inventory in case of disaster, as it will help you and your student should you have to file an insurance claim following a loss. Make sure to take photos or video of the possessions, and store the inventory in a secure, off-site location. Parents should also keep a copy of the inventory and photos.

Check out the NAIC myHOME application - it makes it easy for you to document your student's valuables, update their inventories and store the information for easy access after a disaster.

Auto Insurance

If your student is taking a car with them to school, check with your agent about the existing auto insurance policy. A significant move away from home can have an impact on your rates. Ask about the rates for the college's city and state before deciding whether to keep your 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 G.P.A. might make your child eligible for a good student discount.

Automobile insurance coverage primarily follows the vehicle, rather than the driver. Therefore, it is important for students to understand that if they allow friends to borrow or drive their car, the coverage provided would come from the vehicle owner's insurance policy. Claims submitted under the policy may result in increased auto insurance rates, so parents may wish to discuss expectations concerning use of the insured vehicle before their student leaves for college in order to avoid any misunderstandings or unanticipated consequences.

If your student does not take a vehicle to school, you may want to check with your carrier to see if they offer a discount, or revised rate. This may only apply if the student isn't driving the car while away at school and he/she is more than 100 miles away from the insured address.

About the Indiana Department of Insurance

The Indiana Department of Insurance (IDOI) protects Indiana's insurance consumers by monitoring and regulating the financial strengths and market conduct activities of insurance companies and agents. The IDOI monitors insurance companies and agents for compliance with state laws to protect consumers and to offer them the best array of insurance products available. The IDOI also assists Hoosiers with insurance questions and provides guidance in understanding how insurance policies work.

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