August 14, 2023

Tips for ensuring a safe and healthy college experience

Students should study up on their care options to ace their school experience.

Heading off to college is a thrilling adventure, filled with new experiences and endless possibilities. Amid the excitement, it’s essential that students do not overlook their health.

“There’s so much to do to prepare for starting college that many people forget how important it is to take care of their health needs,” said Lisa Ann Denike, MD, a pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente in the Northwest. “A bit of planning can make all the difference.”

Here are some steps students can take to help ensure a safe and healthy college experience.

Take care of basic health needs before school starts

A bit of planning can make all the difference.

Before students start college, it’s important they address any regular and ongoing health needs.

“I recommend people get a checkup before starting classes,” said Dr. Denike. “They can discuss any concerns they may have — for example, around sleep or mental health. It’s also a chance to get needed vaccinations or prescription refills.”

Taking care of any prescription needs beforehand will ensure that you have enough medicine. Kaiser Permanente members can get 3 months’ worth of medication from the pharmacy. They can also sign up for mail-order prescriptions and have medications sent directly to their school.

By taking care of basic health needs with your doctors before school, students can spend more time focusing on classwork and settling into campus life.

Remember your telehealth options

Phone and video visits can be quick and convenient. They’re great for nonurgent issues that don’t require an in-person examination.

Students who are Kaiser Permanente members can get care and advice by phone or online from a Kaiser Permanente clinician anytime, across the U.S.  Phone and video visits work well for issues that don’t need an in-person exam — like a urinary tract infection or the flu. Sign in to your account to find the right care method for you and see what’s available.

“Kaiser Permanente often provides virtual care for college students with urinary tract infections, pink eye, colds, and the flu,” said Dr. Denike. “I can get patients the treatment they need without them having to come into the office. I can even order them lab tests and prescription medications.”

Students should check with their doctor and health plan to learn about their telehealth options. 

Think about routine care away from home

Routine care is vital. It includes health services such as checkups, preventive screenings, and flu or meningitis B shots.

Students staying close to home for college can continue to get routine care as they normally would. Students going to college in a different area or state should check their health plan’s website to learn how and where to get care.

If a Kaiser Permanente member’s school and home are in different Kaiser Permanente states, they can set up a visiting medical record number for their new state. Kaiser Permanente is in California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, and Washington, D.C. Then, the member can get routine care at a Kaiser Permanente facility near their school.

For Kaiser Permanente members at a college outside of a Kaiser Permanente state, routine in-person care isn’t covered while you’re away at college. You’ll have to pay out of pocket for routine care outside Kaiser Permanente. However, certain plans in Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, and Southwest Washington offer limited out-of-area dependent coverage. To find out if the plan qualifies, members can call the Away From Home Travel Line at 951-268-3900.

Make a plan for unexpected injuries and illnesses

Unexpected health concerns can pop up at any time.

Students should check their health plan’s emergency and urgent care options before heading to school.

No matter where you are, Kaiser Permanente members can simply go to the nearest hospital emergency room. If it’s a Kaiser Permanente location or Cigna HealthcareSM PPO Network provider, you’ll only pay your normal copay or coinsurance.

At the following locations outside Kaiser Permanente states, members will only pay their copay or coinsurance for care or prescriptions related to their urgent care visit — no need to file a claim later:

  • Cigna HealthcareSM PPO Network*
  • MinuteClinic, including pharmacies**
  • Concentra urgent care**
  • The Little Clinic, including pharmacies**

At all other locations, Kaiser Permanente members must pay the full cost of care up front and file a claim for reimbursement later.

More details and guidance for our members are available at

Start college healthy — a checklist for students before they start college

Get routine care visits with your physicians before heading to school.

Download your health plan’s app. The Kaiser Permanente app allows our members to schedule routine appointments, email their doctor’s office, refill prescriptions, view their medical history, and more. (Kaiser Permanente Washington members must download the Kaiser Permanente Washington app.)

Refill prescription medications. Kaiser Permanente members can order up to 3 months’ worth of your routine medications or sign up for mail order so your prescriptions can be sent directly to your school.

Notes for Cigna Healthcare

*The Cigna Healthcare PPO Network refers to the health care providers (doctors, hospitals, specialists) contracted as part of the Cigna Healthcare PPO for Shared Administration.

The Cigna Healthcare PPO Network is not available to HMO and EPO members enrolled in coverage issued by Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington Options, Inc.

The Cigna Healthcare PPO Network is not available to members enrolled in 3-Tier Point-of-Service (POS) and PPO coverage issued by Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington, and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington Options, Inc.

Cigna Healthcare is an independent company and not affiliated with Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., and its subsidiary health plans. Access to the Cigna Healthcare PPO Network is available through Cigna Healthcare’s contractual relationship with the Kaiser Permanente health plans. The Cigna Healthcare PPO Network is provided exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of The Cigna Group, including Cigna. 

Georgia commercial members are required to pay up front and seek reimbursement for prescriptions. If member is in a state that has Kaiser Permanente providers, but outside one of our service areas, the member pays up front for services and prescriptions and will need to file a claim for reimbursement. Maintenance medications (for example, blood pressure, cholesterol), high-cost or specialty medications are not included in this benefit, and the member will need to file a claim for reimbursement. Reimbursement is subject to the pharmacy benefit as described in the member’s Evidence of Coverage or other coverage documents.

The Cigna Healthcare name, logo, and other marks are owned by Cigna Intellectual Property, Inc.

Notes for MinuteClinic, Concentra urgent care, and The Little Clinic

**Payment experiences vary by plan.