Healthcare 101, Health Care Guides, Health Insurance Plans

Your Best 26th Birthday Present? Affordable Healthcare

09/08/2022

For many Americans, turning 26 years old is cause to celebrate — but also a source of potential stress. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), young adults can remain on their parents’ health insurance policy until age 26. Come their 26th birthday, many young people find themselves kicked off their parent’s plan and without health insurance. Which prompts the question: Now what? 

The truth is that adults between the ages of 19 and 34 have the highest uninsured rates of any age group in the U.S1. Finding and shopping for your own health plan for the first time can be daunting and overwhelming. And those turning 26 often discover that out-of-pocket costs of most health insurance plans are too high, especially if they’re part-time, gig, or freelancer workers without employer-sponsored health plans. 

If you’re about to turn 26 and aren’t sure what to do about health insurance, don’t panic — and don’t live your life without health coverage. You do have options, and professionals to help guide you through the process of finding the right health insurance for your lifestyle, needs, and budget. Here’s a good place to start. 

 

Know When Your Coverage Ends 

If you’re aging off your parent’s employer-sponsored plan, your coverage usually ends the month you turn 26. You may be able to extend that coverage with COBRA, but that can be expensive. If you’re aging off your parent’s Marketplace (Obamacare) plan, you can remain on that plan until coverage ends December 31 — even if you turn 26 before then.   

 

Know Your Options 

You may lose your parent’s healthcare coverage when you turn 26, but you still have several options for securing health insurance. 

 

See If You Can Get An Extension 

Some states may allow you to apply for an “insurance rider” that extends your coverage under your parent’s plan beyond age 26. If you qualify, you can generally stay covered under your parent’s plan as long as you’re under 29, unmarried, and don’t have access to health insurance through your job.

 

Enroll in Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance 

If you have a job, you might be able to get health insurance through your employer even outside the Open Enrollment period. Reach out to your employer’s HR department before you turn 26 to learn about next steps.

 

Buy a Health Plan on the Marketplace 

You can compare a range of health plans on the Marketplace at HealthCare.gov. Based in your income, you may quality for an affordable plan for a low monthly rate. To get a Marketplace health plan, you’ll need to apply.  

Make sure that no one is still claiming you as a dependent on their next year’s tax returns — otherwise their income will be included on your Marketplace application which may disqualify you for savings. If you file your own taxes, you’ll be able to fill out your own application. 

 

Get Healthcare Coverage Outside the Marketplace 

If the plans you find on the Marketplace are out of your price range, you can try going directly to an insurance company, contacting a health insurance provider to ask about individual health plan options, or shop on a private-run marketplace that lets you compare multiple options at once to find the lowest-cost plan. 

 

Plan Ahead and Ask For Help 

To avoid any gap in coverage between the time you leave your parent’s plan and find a new one, it’s a good idea to start looking for health insurance before your birthday month. Keep in mind, you’ll need to sign up for a plan within the first 15 days of the month to have coverage kick in the following month.  

 

 

  1. https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2020/10/uninsured-rates-highest-for-young-adults-aged-19-to-34.html

 

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