Finding health insurance, especially for the first time, can be confusing and complicated. In most cases, you can stay on your parent’s health insurance until age 26, even if you get married, have a child, start or leave school, move out of your parent’s home, or aren’t claimed as a tax dependent. After you turn 26, however, it’s common to lose access.
If you’re looking to obtain your own health insurance, there are multiple options available to explore. Here are the answers to some commonly-asked questions about obtaining health insurance after — or even before — you turn 26.
What are my options for health insurance?
If you’re turning 26 soon, there are several routes you can take to obtain coverage.
One of these options is to enroll in your employer’s group plan, which can be done at any time, including before the age of 26. If you choose to enroll, you must drop off your parents’ plan before the new coverage can begin.
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You can also buy an individual plan if you’re self-employed, unemployed or otherwise cannot get coverage through your job. You can shop for plans on your state’s Affordable Care Act Marketplace, as well as through the federal marketplace.
Another option is to seek coverage from an insurance company. Private coverage can be found outside of the government marketplace, and you can contact health insurance providers to explore your individual options.
Joining a short-term health plan is another way. Short-term plans last around 90 days and can be renewed to provide coverage for up to 364 days. In some states, they can be renewed to three years. These plans typically set costs based on age and health conditions. This means young people may be charged less than older people. However, short-term insurance does not provide as much coverage as ACA plans.
How long do I have to find new insurance?
The exact time at which you are no longer covered under your parents’ plan depends on where your parents get their insurance. Deadlines for acquiring a new plan within the next year vary according to whether your parent is covered by a marketplace plan or a private plan.
If your parent is covered by a private, employer-sponsored plan, typically coverage ends during or shortly after the month you turn 26.
Once you age out of your parent’s plan, you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, which is a time outside the yearly Open Enrollment Period — the period in the fall when people can enroll in health insurance for the next calendar year — when you can sign up for health insurance. The Special Enrollment period begins 60 days before you turn 26 and ends 60 days afterward, according to healthcare.gov.
If you enroll before you lose coverage, you can find insurance using the Health Insurance Marketplace, a service that helps people shop for and enroll in health insurance. For most states, the federal government operates the marketplace, which is available at healthcare.gov.
Your Marketplace plan can start the first day of the month after you lose coverage. If you enroll after you lose coverage, your plan can start the first day of the month after you enroll.
To avoid gaps in coverage, you are required to sign up within the first 15 days of the month in order to have coverage begin the following month.
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If your parent is covered under a marketplace plan, you can stay on their plan until Dec. 31 of the year you turn 26. However, if you want coverage that begins on the first day of the next year, you must enroll by Dec. 15, according to healthcare.gov.
If you are not listed as a dependent on your parent’s tax return when your coverage ends Dec. 31, you can enroll in a marketplace plan yourself during Open Enrollment. You may be eligible for savings if you qualify based on income and if your employer isn’t offering you job-based coverage. If you are listed as a dependent when coverage ends, you can also enroll during Open Enrollment, but you won’t be eligible for savings based on income.
In some cases, you can get an insurance rider plan that allows you to stay on your parents’ insurance plan after you turn 26. This option is available in eight states: Florida, Illinois, Nebraska, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and South Dakota. Most people qualify for these plans if they’re under 29, unmarried and do not have access to another form of insurance under their employer. Under these plans, you can apply to stay on your parents’ plan until you turn 30.
What if I need healthcare before I turn 26?
If you’d prefer to purchase your own healthcare before you turn 26, you can purchase a “catastrophic” health plan, which mainly protects against worst-case scenarios.
If you’re in school, you might be able to enroll in a student health plan. IU offers student insurance plans to groups of students required to have coverage. These include international students and students in the School of Medicine, School of Dentistry, School of Optometry and School of Health and Human Sciences. Graduate students with an eligible Graduate Appointment or Fellowship Award may also be eligible for coverage.
Students required to have coverage are automatically enrolled and notified at the beginning of each semester.
IU does not require all students to have coverage and does not offer a student insurance plan that allows undergraduate students to voluntarily enroll.
You may also qualify for Medicaid, a program that helps with healthcare costs for some people with limited income and resources, if your income is lower or if you are pregnant, have children or have a disability. To find out if you're eligible, fill out a marketplace application.