New Fee on Some College Bills: It’s for the Virus

Several colleges noted that if the federal government appropriated money to help colleges pay for testing programs, they would credit all or part of their virus fees back to students.

Here are some questions and answers about the fees:

Will my health insurance plan reimburse me for college-required coronavirus tests?

Maybe. Many insurers, in general, cover tests for the virus only if they are deemed “medically necessary,” which typically means a patient has symptoms or an order from a physician. Screening tests for people who don’t have symptoms — which is what many colleges are doing — may not be covered at no cost.

St. Michael’s College acknowledged that possibility. “The college can provide families with evidence of the payment and what it was for so that they can seek reimbursement from their insurance company,” the website says. “However, our understanding is that most insurance companies will not reimburse for asymptomatic testing, which is what the college will be doing in nearly all cases.”

But Stephanie Cohen, an insurance broker near Washington, D.C., said major health insurers seemed “likely” to reimburse for tests required under formal college testing programs. She advised students to contact their health plans for clarification. Or students could visit their doctor to explain the situation, and request a prescription for the test.

If I get sick with the virus while attending college, will my campus health insurance plan cover my care?

Health insurance plans, including those created for and sold through colleges to students, cover coronavirus-related care and treatment in the same way they cover other illnesses, Ms. Marks said.

Even if a student is sent home because the campus switches from in-person to remote classes, she said, the health plan generally would cover care and treatment as long as the student remained eligible, which typically means the student is enrolled for a minimum number of credit hours.

My college bill includes a “student health” fee. Does that mean I have health insurance?

No. Most colleges charge all students a mandatory health fee, which typically covers the cost of primary care, counseling and health education at a campus health center; a per-visit fee may also be charged. But the fee doesn’t cover more extensive treatment. For that, you would need insurance coverage, whether through a plan offered on campus to students or through coverage you have on your own or through a parent’s health plan. (You can remain on your parents’ health plan until age 26.)