Sending kids off to college is a stressful time for parents, but the Missouri Department of Insurance is reminding them to check their policies.

The department says there are three categories to check off as you’re making sure your college student is covered: Health, auto and homeowner’s (or renter’s) insurance.

Spokesman Travis Ford says it’s best if parents can keep their children on their health insurance policies until they graduate. The law requires insurance companies retain dependent children until they’re 25 years old.

Ford says student health insurance programs are available through most colleges, but not always the best option. Many of them, he says, contain exemptions and won’t cover alcohol-related injuries or illnesses, something that "tends to happen" to college students.

Ford says parents need to update auto insurance policies with changes in location and driving habits; and to check with their homeowner’s insurance provider to see if the student’s possessions are covered while away at school. If not, renter’s insurance policies are typically inexpensive.

People who need help understanding their policies can contact the Missouri Department of Insurance with questions. Ford says policies can sometimes be long and confusing and the department is happy to help out. Those who believe their policy isn’t covering what it should can also contact the department’s consumer complaint division.

Call 800-726-7390 or visit www. insurance .

Health insurance: Most health insurance policies cover dependents who are full-time students. Generally, a student must be enrolled in at least 12 credit hours per semester. Individual policies differ, however, Missouri law mandates dependents can be covered under your health insurance policy until the age of 25, as long as they’re not married or qualify for another group employer health insurance plan. For more, call the Insurance Consumer Hotline at 800-726-7390.

Know your policy: Make sure your student has a copy of the relevant insurance cards. If you’re insured by a health maintenance organization (HMO), check to see if your student will be outside the HMO service area while away at school. If so, the student will likely have coverage for emergency care, but might have to travel to a physician or hospital within the HMO service area for routine care. Check your plan or speak with your insurer to find out.

Student health insurance plans: If your student’s healthcare coverage is limited by the network service area, another option is a student health insurance plan. These plans are sold by an insurer that has contracted with a college to offer coverage to its students. In general, these plans have more limited benefits and more exclusions. Many will also exclude routine examinations and injuries sustained while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Renter’s insurance: Many students bring thousands of dollars worth of personal items — electronics, computers, textbooks, clothes, furniture, bikes. Many homeowners policies cover students’ belongings, but only if they live on campus. Check your policy, if you’re student’s property is not covered, you might want to consider taking out renter’s insurance.

Home inventory: Making a comprehensive list of your student’s possessions — including purchase prices, model numbers and serial numbers — will help you decide how much renter’s insurance your student will need. It’s also a good idea to have a detailed inventory in case of disaster, as it will help you file an insurance claim following a catastrophe. Make sure to take photos or video of the possessions, and store the list in a secure, off-site location. Parents should also keep a copyof the list and photos.

Auto insurance: If your student is taking a car to school, check with your agent about the existing insurance policy. Ask about the rates for the college’s city and state before decideing whether to keep your student’s car on the family’s policy. Also, see if your company offers a discount to students who maintain good grades.

Jessica Machetta reports [Download/listen MP3]