Under 26? Youve got health insurance options
If you’re a young adult with questions about health insurance, you’re not alone.
As a member of the highmark blue cross blue shield social media team, I have to admit that I am more knowledgeable about health care than most people my age (23, if you ask). But it wasn’t that long ago that I knew next to nothing about health insurance. it was easy to stay in the dark because I was on my parents’ health plan and didn’t have to worry about it.
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- live with your parents
- are claimed as dependents on their parents’ taxes
- have a full-time job
- are eligible to enroll in their employer’s health plan
- attend school
- are married
- turns 26
- get married
- have a child
- moving or graduating from college
- lose your student health insurance coverage.
- For these events, you have 60 days to visit www.healthcare.gov to see your options and enroll in a plan. Don’t forget to check if you’re eligible for financial help paying for coverage.
then I graduated from university. I moved to Pittsburgh, got a job, and my parents started asking me about my company’s benefits plan. I took the hint; it was time to make my own health insurance choices.
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For me, it was a pretty easy decision; I work for a health insurance company that offers affordable coverage. But it made me think a lot about my friends whose part-time jobs, full-time education, and job searches don’t make their health insurance choices so easy, even though we’re all about the same age. . Having become a bit of a health care nerd myself, I started asking them what they were doing about their health insurance and if there was anything they weren’t “getting”. And despite the general awkwardness of going from a conversation about soccer to one about health insurance, it turned out that a lot of my friends had questions.
So if you’re like them and aren’t quite sure what to do, or even what you can do, about your health insurance, here’s the good news: You have options. here they are, in no particular order.
Option 1: Stay on your parents’ health insurance plan
Under the Affordable Care Act, young adults can choose to stay on their parent’s health insurance plan until they turn 26, with no ifs and buts. That means you can stay on your parent’s plan whether:
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For some, this is ideal, as plans that cover families can be less expensive per person than individual plans. others, in their quest for independence, choose to buy their own insurance before they turn 26 (I’m guilty of that). If you stay on your parents’ plan, you may want to help them out and take the financial responsibility of paying for your own health insurance. you can work out a system with them to pay your share of the monthly premium and your share of copays and costs toward your family’s deductible.
Option 2: Enroll in a student health insurance plan
If you attend a college or university, you may be able to enroll in that school’s student health plan. These plans tend to be relatively inexpensive and are a good option if your parents don’t have health insurance or if you don’t want to stay in your plan. Find out if your school offers health insurance options by checking their website or calling the financial aid office.
Option 3: Enroll in your employer’s health plan
You don’t have to wait until age 26 to enroll in one of the health insurance plans offered by your employer. Depending on where you live and what you can afford, coverage offered by your employer may be a better fit for you than your parent’s insurance plan. If your employer offers coverage, it’s a good idea to at least look at what they offer and compare it to your current plan. For what it’s worth, even though you may have to pay a little more each month than before, it feels great to pay for your own health care coverage. I know, it sounds crazy, but it’s true. Plus, it’ll save your parents some money, an angle you can easily redeem for brownie points.
option 4: choose a plan from your local bcbs company or on the insurance market
if your employer or school doesn’t offer insurance, you can choose your own individual health insurance plan by contacting your local bcbs company or online from the health care marketplace. open enrollment runs from November 1, 2016 through January 31, 2017 this year.
You may also qualify for a special enrollment period as a result of certain life events, such as:
When choosing your own plan, be sure to consider all of your options. a low monthly premium may seem attractive. But it may mean you’re agreeing to pay a higher share of health care costs that come up during the year. always think about your total health care costs instead of just your premium. If you anticipate that you will need a lot of medical care or would not be able to meet a higher deductible if you had an unexpected medical problem, choosing an option with a higher level of coverage may be smarter and less expensive. If you have questions, a representative from your local bcbs company will be able to help.
Option 5: Research your eligibility for Medicaid coverage
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Based on your annual income and other criteria, you may be eligible for Medicaid coverage through your state’s Medicaid program. Medicaid is the federal and state program that helps cover medical costs for Americans living with limited income or resources. You can find out if you’re eligible for Medicaid online.
option 6: study a catastrophic health insurance plan
As someone under the age of 30, you might be eligible to enroll in a “catastrophic health insurance plan.” catastrophic plans are designed to protect you in worst-case medical situations. With a plan like this, you’ll pay for all the health care you might need up to a maximum amount (your “deductible”). Although catastrophic plans may have lower monthly premiums than other plans, their deductibles are often significantly higher. Catastrophic plans cover three visits to a primary care doctor per year before you meet your deductible, as well as certain preventive services with no cost-sharing, so you don’t have to worry about paying for them. but they also don’t apply to meet your deductible.
Before selecting a catastrophic plan, consider the risk factors in your life that may require you to be more prone to accidents or illnesses or need medical care. Do you smoke? play contact sports? do you drive a motorcycle? are you managing a chronic condition? any of these could increase your risk of needing medical care that a catastrophic plan would not cover until you have paid your deductible.
It’s also worth noting that catastrophic plans aren’t eligible for financial help through the health care marketplace, so an eligible silver level plan might end up being a better option, with stronger coverage for a equal or less cost.
I work in the industry, and there are still a lot of things I find confusing about health insurance and health care. but I have the advantage of being able to communicate with experts in the organization whenever I need to understand something better. the good news is: you too. There are 36 independent, local Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies in the US. uu. ready to help you understand your covered health insurance options. you can find contact information for the bcbs company in your area here. in any case, always keep in mind that the type of coverage you get is your decision. choice is a good thing. And with all the options available, and a little expert help understanding them, you should be able to find a plan that meets your coverage needs and price range.
editor’s note: this article appears on the highmark blog. visit for more answers to your health insurance questions, healthy ideas, community stories and more.