I’m Losing My Health Insurance When I Graduate — Help!

Photographed by Jessica Nash.
By Adriana D. Kohler

Someone asked us:

I’m graduating in the spring and won’t have student health insurance anymore.  Do I have to wait until next open enrollment period to sign up?  Will I have to pay a fine until then?

It’s really great that you’re thinking ahead on this. More than one in five young adults don’t have health insurance — and that’s not cool. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) you have some great health insurance options. Here’s what you can do after you graduate:

1. Get on a parent’s plan.
You can stay on a parent’s plan until you’re 26 years old. In some states. you might be able to stay on their plan even longer. And what’s great is that you can be on their plan regardless of your tax status (e.g., whether your parents claim you as a dependent on their taxes), student status, state of residence, or marital status.

To get health insurance through your parent’s plan, talk to your parent’s insurance company or plan administrator. If your parents have insurance through their job, talk to someone from their human resources department.  

2. Sign up for your own health insurance.
You can get your own health insurance plan by visiting the health insurance marketplace. There, you can can browse health plan options in your state, compare monthly premiums, and learn about financial assistance options. Start your search here.

3. Apply for Medicaid.
Depending on the state you live in and how much money you make, you can find out if you qualify for free or very low-cost health coverage through Medicaid.  If you qualify for Medicaid coverage, you can apply at any point during the year. Get started here.

Whether you’re signing up for your parent’s health insurance or your own plan in the marketplace, there’s an “open enrollment” period that allows people to sign up for insurance only during a certain time of year. (The next one will be October 1 through December 15, 2015). But, since you’re graduating and losing student health coverage, this would likely be considered a “qualifying life event,” which allows you to join your parent’s plan or sign up for your own marketplace coverage right away. You’ll have a limited period of time after your student health plan ends — about 30 to 60 days — to sign up.  

You may be subject to a fee on your taxes next year if you don’t get covered, so act fast and make sure this is at the top of your to-do list after you earn your diploma! 
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