Make sure your college student has insurance protection

07/25/2014 1:00 AM

07/25/2014 11:19 AM

Strange and unexpected things can happen after you ship your kids off to college.

Laptops have a way of disappearing from backpacks when left unattended in the school library. Fenders tend to get creased when squeezing into tight parking spots next to the dorm. And to add a little more stress to your life, a semester abroad program can go awry fast if your student contracts mono or breaks an ankle and needs to be airlifted off a mountain.

The lesson: Make sure your insurance coverage is up to date.

Medical insurance tops the checklist for most parents because students generally can’t enroll without it, but other coverage issues often get overlooked.

Before your student leaves the nest, find out whether your homeowner policy will cover his stuff while at school, and figure out what to do about car insurance while he’s gone. If your child is studying abroad this semester or next, don’t overlook the health insurance page in the information package.

Homeowner or rental insurance?

Your homeowner policy will generally cover your student if the student is living on campus in a dorm or sorority or fraternity housing.

However, the coverage for the student’s belongings may be limited to 10 percent of your total household personal possessions coverage. Though rules vary by insurer, those limits should be enough. For example, if you have $200,000 in personal property covered on your homeowner policy, then $20,000 will follow the student to college.

Another approach: If your student has special items — such as a smartphone, an expensive laptop, high-end speakers or other electronics — consider additional “scheduled” personal property coverage. This will ensure the full value is covered in the event of a loss, though an additional premium is charged.

Add up the value of your students’ stuff before packing up to make sure there’s enough coverage.

If your student is living off campus in an apartment, there are occasions when your homeowner insurance might not provide enough coverage. In that case, you may need to buy a basic renter policy. It’s relatively inexpensive — costing about $125 a year — though it depends on personal possessions and the size of the apartment.

Auto insurance

If your student is going to college more than 100 miles from home and doesn’t take a car, your premiums will more than likely drop $50 to $100. And when she returns home during the school year and drives a car, she will still be covered.

On the other hand, if your student will have a car on campus, your premiums might increase. It depends partly on where she is attending college — a major metropolitan area with high accident rates such as Boston or a small-town campus in Northfield, Minn.

Of course, students who maintain at least a B average qualify for a good student premium discount of up to 15 percent. Your insurance will require an official grades transcript for proof.

Study abroad protection

If you’re preparing to ship your college student off to Japan, Kenya, England or some other locale this fall or in January, make sure your health insurance provides coverage outside the United States. If not, you may need to take out additional insurance.

Specialty insurers such as GradGuard sell student travel coverage policies that cover, among other things, evacuation to the nearest medical facility.

Keep in mind that many schools include medical insurance as part of the study abroad fees. This provides backup protection in case your primary health policy has coverage gaps.

Ask the school sponsoring the study program for information about local doctors, clinics and hospitals in the host country. And if your student is on any prescription drugs, get refills before heading out that will last the duration of the program. Don’t assume your student can easily get fresh supplies in a foreign country.

To reach Steve Rosen, call 816-234-4879 or send email to srosen@kcstar.com.

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