Campus Life

New requirements to ensure adequate health insurance coverage for all students

Penn State to require all full-time students to have health insurance coverage beginning fall 2019

Editor’s Note: Penn State is not implementing a University-wide health insurance requirement for 2019-20. For fall 2019, U.S. students are required to submit their health insurance coverage information through LionPATH. However, this process is for information collection only and students will not be automatically enrolled in the Penn State Student Health Insurance Plan or incur any charges if they do not have coverage. For more information, visit

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Beginning in fall 2019, Penn State will roll out a University-wide student health insurance requirement for all full-time U.S. students. International students are already required to have adequate health insurance coverage while enrolled at Penn State. The requirement will not apply to World Campus students.

As part of the new requirement, all students (U.S. students and international students) must provide proof of health insurance coverage that meets certain criteria, or purchase the Penn State Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP).

The University-wide student health insurance requirement provides a safety net for students by guaranteeing they have coverage. The requirement does not mean students must enroll in the Penn State SHIP; it means a student must show evidence of acceptable coverage. The Penn State SHIP is one way to meet that requirement. Health insurance coverage through a U.S. employer-sponsored program or coverage that was purchased through the Health Insurance Marketplace ( is also likely to meet the requirement.

The University is increasingly concerned about students without adequate health insurance. Many students do not seek health care when needed because of a lack of health insurance. University Health Services, a unit of Penn State Student Affairs, has been collecting health insurance information from students over the past two years to better understand student insurance needs.

According to University Health Services, several hundred students each year are surprised to learn that their insurance is inadequate to meet their needs, or restricts their access to physicians or hospitals because it is a Health Management Organization (HMO), a regional health plan, state Medicaid plan, or other health insurance plan that does not work in the area of their Penn State campus or outside of their home area.

The University recognizes that this requirement may pose a financial challenge for some students and has begun identifying financial support resources for students with need. The financial risk associated with being uninsured is significant, and Penn State wants to be sure that all students are appropriately insured. Penn State will communicate more on these resources in the coming months.

The requirement will be rolled out in two phases, the first of which will be launched in summer 2018 when all full-time students are asked to complete an online health insurance collection form accessed through LionPATH. Students will see emails from First Risk Advisors with instructions for completing this form. By completing this form, students can learn if their current health insurance policy will meet the recommendations for fall 2019. 

Penn State will enroll full-time students in the Penn State SHIP at the beginning of each academic year, effective fall 2019. At that time, students can choose to waive this coverage and avoid any fees by providing documentation of a comparable insurance plan through an online form. This process ensures students have access to health insurance that meets their health care needs and that covers them on or near the campus they attend.

The Penn State SHIP is a platinum-level health insurance plan with a low deductible and a capped out-of-pocket maximum. It was designed specifically for Penn State students and selected with input from Penn State students. The Penn State SHIP offers a vast community of in-network providers at all campus locations and throughout the United States, as well as worldwide coverage. Penn State offers this plan through United Healthcare. It is offered as a service to our students and Penn State does not profit from the plan. For more about Penn State SHIP coverage, visit the University Health Services website.     

All students will be given adequate notice and detailed information about the insurance requirements and how to waive the Penn State SHIP prior to the 2019 rollout. For more information about the University-wide student health insurance requirement and Penn State SHIP, visit the University Health Services website.

Who is required to have health insurance?

All Penn State undergraduate students enrolled in 12 or more credits, Penn State law students enrolled in 12 or more credits, Penn State graduate and medical students enrolled in nine or more credits, and Penn State international students enrolled in one or more credits must provide proof of health insurance that meets a certain set of requirements, or purchase the Penn State SHIP. This requirement applies to students at all Commonwealth Campuses. The requirement does not include Penn State World Campus students or part-time U.S. undergraduate students enrolled in five or fewer credits or part-time U.S. graduate, law and medical students enrolled in three or fewer credits. Undergraduate students enrolled in six or more credits and graduate, law and medical students enrolled in four or more credits may choose to purchase SHIP coverage.

Why is Penn State implementing this requirement?

Penn State cares about the health, safety and academic success of every student.

Many students arrive at Penn State uninsured or underinsured, and are not covered to receive health care services. Not having adequate insurance puts students at risk for accumulating high debt if they become sick or injured, which can jeopardize their ability to succeed in school or in some cases complete their degree. Health care services can be very costly and a single unplanned medical event can negatively impact a student’s academic and financial future. Penn State aims to safeguard the success of its students and ensure that reasonably priced health services are available to all.

Will my current health insurance coverage satisfy the requirement?

If you currently have health insurance coverage offered through a U.S. employer-sponsored program, Pennsylvania Medicaid coverage, or coverage that was purchased through the Health Insurance Marketplace (, there is a good chance that it will satisfy the Penn State requirement. Please visit Health Insurance Recommendations for U.S. Students for a list of recommendations that your health insurance plan should meet. If you are unsure whether or not your plan meets the guidelines, you should contact your insurance provider to confirm.

If you are unsure what to ask your health insurance provider, use the five questions below as a guide.

1. What are the effective dates of my policy? Confirm your policy is effective during the academic school year from August 2019 to August 2020.

2. Are there in-network health care providers in the area of my Penn State campus? Some insurance plans require you to use in-network providers and those providers may not be in the area you are attending college. To avoid having to travel out of the area to receive care or pay increased out-of-network cost, make sure your health insurance plan has in-network health care providers near your campus.

3. What are my deductible and out-of-pocket costs? Understand what deductible you need to meet and out-of-pocket costs you will have to pay when visiting a health care provider to make sure you will have the ability to pay at the time of service.

4. Does my policy have prescription drug coverage? This is especially important if you are taking any maintenance medications.

5. Does my policy have coverage for emergencies and nonemergency services such as diagnostic X-ray and lab, physical therapy, urgent care visits, ambulance services, and preventive vaccines? Confirm your insurance provider offers coverage for preventive care, as well as unexpected health concerns that may arise while you are at school. 

Last Updated March 28, 2019