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You may be eligible for a government subsidy if your household income is under:
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) offers subsidies based on your household income, family size, and Qualifying Life Events.

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One of the life events below has happened to you in the past 60 days:
  • I got married or divorced
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Turning 26: Health insurance tips for when you lose coverage under your parents' plan

Young woman surrounded by question marksThe Affordable Care Act (ACA) allows young adults to stay on their parents’ health insurance plan until age 26.

The provision has allowed millions of young adults to stay covered and not have to pay high premiums on their own policies. 

But what happens when these young adults have their 26th birthday? Here's what you need to know about aging out of your parents' health plan. 

Can you stay on your parents’ health insurance after 26?

The short answer is no, you can't, in most states.

The ACA only allows young adults to be covered under a parent policy until age 26. However, there are some exceptions. A handful of states extend coverage to age 30 or 31, albeit with some limitations. For example, New York residents may stay on their parents’ policy until age 30 if you're unmarried. In New Jersey, it’s 31 for those who are unmarried and have no dependents, said Penny Gusner, senior consumer analyst for Insure.com.

Do I lose my health insurance when I turn 26?

Not necessarily. If you're covered under your parents’ group health plan and you're turning 26 soon, your parent’s employer is typically required to make coverage available until the end of the month in which you turn 26. However, some plans may cover a dependent until the end of the year in which the dependent turns 26. 

How long do you have to get health insurance after you turn 26?

Regardless of when your parents’ plan ends your coverage, you'll have a 120-day special enrollment window in which to buy a new health insurance policy on the marketplace for ACA plans. During this time, which begins 60 days before you turn 26 and ends 60 days after, you can purchase a new medical plan. If you are buying an individual plan that is not on the ACA marketplace, you have 30 days after you turn 26.

What are the most common options for health insurance after age 26?

There are a few choices for young adults that are aging off of their parents’ health insurance plan. First, there is COBRA, which is temporary extended health insurance that can be purchased for up to 36 months. This option is typically pricey as you are continuing on the coverage you had previously but without your parents’ employer paying any portion of the plan costs. You have up to 60 days to elect COBRA coverage. 

A better option, if you're employed, is to join your company’s health insurance plan. 

Another option if you're married is to go on your spouse’s health plan. You must ask your spouse’s employer to add you to the plan within 30 days of your loss of coverage under your parent’s plan. 

A fourth choice is to shop for your own individual plan in your state’s ACA marketplace or in the individual market. If you qualify for subsidies, then you should shop through the marketplace to obtain coverage.

A final choice is buying a short-term health plan. This type of plan comes with high deductibles but low monthly premiums. You can keep the plan for a year and request to have it extended two times. However, some states don't allow those plans, while others put limits on the time. 

What are some things to consider when buying individual health insurance?

Gusner says when buying an individual health insurance plan, consider the overall price of the plan, the amount you pay toward your care and the flexibility you will have to see specialists and doctors in your network. Compare plans from at least three insurers, if possible. 

“There is of course the cost of the premiums with each, but then also the co-payments, deductibles and coinsurance. Compare the numbers to see which insurer makes more financial sense,” says Gusner.  “Then there is the network of doctors and hospitals, does one give you better choices for the area in which you live?”

To be sure you're choosing from among the top-rated carriers, review Insure.com’s ranking of the Best Health Insurance Companies, based on a survey of 3,160 policyholders on customer service, price, claims handling, website/app merit and renewal.

It may be tempting to skip health insurance to save money, if you are young and healthy. Is this advisable? Why or why not?

The belief that young adults are healthy and don’t need coverage is bogus. One in six young adults has a chronic illness, for instance, cancer, diabetes or asthma, according to the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, which operates under the Department of Health and Human Services. Nearly half of uninsured young adults report problems paying medical bills.

Aside from the statistics, no one can predict the future, says Gusner, which is why people have insurance in the first place.

“No, it’s not advisable to go without insurance because you never know what can happen. While you are young and healthy today, accidents can happen as well as severe illnesses that are totally unexpected,” says Gusner. “If you’re young and healthy and want to pay less, you should at least look into a short-term plan. That will at least provide coverage for some care and coverage for a worst-case scenario, though after a big deductible.”

Ready to get a quote?

Find Affordable Health Insurance Now!

Please enter valid Zip Code.
Please enter valid date.
You may be eligible for a government subsidy if your household income is under:
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) offers subsidies based on your household income, family size, and Qualifying Life Events.

You may qualify if...
One of the life events below has happened to you in the past 60 days:
  • I got married or divorced
  • I had a baby
  • A member of my family died
  • I moved to another state
  • i lost my job
  • I started a new job
  • I lost my health insurance coverage
and
Your income is under:
  • $45,960 - Individuals
  • $62,040 - Family of 2
  • $78,120 - Family of 3
  • $94,200 - Family of 4
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