How student education can combat the rising cost of student healthcare

High healthcare costs can be a barrier for many students, preventing them from seeking medical and behavioral healthcare. Finding ways to reduce those costs is an effective way to make care more accessible to all students.

In this post, we’ll discuss the reality of current healthcare costs and then look at how educating students about how to best navigate their healthcare can help reduce costs associated with care.

The cost of healthcare

Between 2009 and 2019, healthcare spending in the U.S. increased by 30%, from just under $2.7 trillion to $3.4 trillion, according to the CDC.1 These values exclude the effect of inflation.

In addition to overall healthcare spending, employer-sponsored health insurance premiums have also increased in recent years, rising from an average of $6,438 in 2000 to $23,968 in 2023.2

Such a steep rise in healthcare costs across the U.S. in recent years highlights the importance of reducing healthcare costs wherever possible. This is of particular importance when dealing with college students, a vulnerable population with limited access to funding for healthcare.

In fact, financial concerns are a common limitation for many undergrad students, with 73% reporting having experienced financial difficulty during school.3 Additionally, 57% of undergrads indicated difficulty finding $500 in the event of an emergency.3

According to Wellfleet’s estimates, based on our data trend from 2017 to 2024, we have also seen an upward trend of healthcare costs within the student health industry.4 In fact, the average year-over-year increases in student healthcare costs appear to be higher than that in the commercial healthcare market.4

What’s causing high student healthcare costs?

We’ve found that several factors contribute to high healthcare costs within the student health insurance industry. A few of the top drivers causing this cost increase within student health include:

  • Challenges with understanding and navigating the healthcare system
  • Difficulty communicating with students and ensuring they have resources where and when they need them
  • High-dollar claims for catastrophic events or complex conditions
  • Out-of-network and emergency care utilization
  • High specialty drug spend

Learn how the Wellfleet Rx formulary is helping lower student pharmacy costs by offering 50+ medications with a $0.00 copay.

How to combat rising costs through student education

The first step you can take to reduce student healthcare costs is to help students expand their knowledge about how to navigate their healthcare needs effectively. 

Not only does better student education help improve health outcomes by making it easier for students to get the right care, but it also helps reduce costs associated with getting care.

One of the key aspects of student healthcare education is making it as simple as possible for students to understand. Avoid over-complicating the healthcare process. When feasible, make it easy for students to access low-cost healthcare options.

Student health centers

For example, many colleges and universities have campus health centers. These facilities are excellent for providing care at an affordable cost. Ensure students on your campus are informed about how and when to get care from their health center. There are many ways to increase health center visibility, including:

  • Posting health center information around campus
  • Touring the facility with all incoming students during orientation
  • Publicizing vaccinations and other services
  • Offering free services that draw students to the health center
  • Providing health lectures or videos featuring health center providers

Be creative and tailor your strategies to the communication practices most effective on your campus.


Another cost-effective care option on which to educate students is telehealth.

Student health insurance plans like Wellfleet provide access to several types of telehealth services, and these can be a convenient and inexpensive way to get care.

For example, Wellfleet’s telehealth options can include access to the following services at no additional cost to the student5:

  • Teladoc® Health – Students can schedule virtual appointments with medical and behavioral health providers.
  • CareConnect – Students can talk with a licensed behavioral health counselor 24/7/365.
  • SilverCloud® by Amwell® – Students can use self-guided digital behavioral health programs for sleep, anxiety, depression, and stress.
  • Nurseline – Students can receive immediate phone assistance from a registered nurse.

Other care options

Students also need to be informed about where to seek care when a more urgent need arises.

Certain health needs require immediate in-person care, and students have several options for where to go for care. They need to understand how to choose the appropriate option depending on the situation.

  • Emergency room – For emergency needs and life-threatening conditions. These facilities incur the highest costs to the member, so they should only be used when needed.
  • Urgent care center – For non-emergency care that still requires urgent assistance. These facilities are a step down from emergency rooms and are less expensive. These facilities can provide care for many conditions, including UTIs, sore throats, flu, and sprains.
  • Walk-in clinic – For same-day care for minor health conditions. They generally cost less than an urgent care center. Walk-in clinics are a good option if students cannot access their student health center.
  • Specialist office – For more complicated or complex health needs that do not require immediate attention. Students are often referred to a specialist after first seeing a general provider. Students may have to wait for several weeks to see a specialist, so they should only see a specialist if they don’t require immediate care.

In-network vs. out-of-network

Another topic where student education is essential is in deciding which providers they should visit. Most student health plans use a provider network.

Therefore, when students seek care, it’s important for them only to visit providers who participate in their network. This will ensure that students and the school plan are paying the lower costs associated with in-network vs. out-of-network care.

Provide education to students that helps clarify what network their health plan uses and how to find an in-network provider. Understanding how to access in-network care can help reduce healthcare costs and promote cost-effective care-seeking behavior in students.

For plans that don’t have a network, such as True Choice by Wellfleet, students have the freedom to choose their provider without network restrictions.6 This can help improve access to care and reduce costs. Plus, they can experience premium savings of up to 20% when compared to a commercial PPO plan.7

Learn more ways you can help reduce student healthcare costs in our whitepaper.

Build a student-centric health plan with Wellfleet Student

At Wellfleet, we’re dedicated to controlling costs for our clients and members. We work hard to help ensure our members are satisfied with the quality and cost of care they receive.

Connect with our team to learn more about how Wellfleet goes the extra mile to provide quality care for our members while reducing student healthcare costs.


1 National Center for Health Statistics. (2024, Jan 16). Health Care Expenditures. CDC.

2 Johnson, S. (2023, Oct 18). U.S. Health Insurance Premiums Rise 7%, Near $24K for Family Coverage. U.S. News & World Report.

3 Fletcher, C, et al. (2023, May). Student Financial Wellness Survey Fall 2022 Semester Results. Trellis Research.

4 Data presented is based on Wellfleet’s estimate of the paid trend from 2017 to 2024 based on our recent SHIP data.​

5 Services offered vary by plan design. Contact a Wellfleet sales representative for plan offerings and details.

6 True Choice is not available in all states. Currently available in AL, CO, KY, ME, OH, OK, & TX. Contact Wellfleet for more details.  This policy has exclusions and limitations. For costs and complete details of the coverage, call your insurance agent or the company.

7 Average client savings based on 2022-2023 plan year claims data. Savings vary based on plan structure, performance, and client. 

©2019 Teladoc Health, Inc. All rights reserved. Teladoc and the Teladoc logo are registered trademarks of Teladoc Health, Inc., and may not be used without written permission. Teladoc does not replace the primary care physician. Teladoc does not guarantee that a prescription will be written. Teladoc operates subject to state regulation and may not be available in certain states. Teladoc does not prescribe DEA controlled substances, non therapeutic drugs and certain other drugs which may be harmful because of their potential for abuse. Teladoc physicians reserve the right to deny care for potential misuse of services.


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Wellfleet is the marketing name used to refer to the insurance and administrative operations of Wellfleet Insurance Company, Wellfleet New York Insurance Company, and Wellfleet Group, LLC. All insurance products are administered or managed by Wellfleet Group, LLC. Product availability is based upon business and/or regulatory approval and may differ among companies.