Health Insurance: What Do You Do When You Turn 26?

Olivia Durkee

| 3 min read

Olivia Durkee is a Corporate Communications Intern at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. She is a rising senior at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor studying Communications and Media. She enjoys hiking, reading, crocheting and camping in her free time.

Turning 26 isn’t a necessarily memorable birthday – except for one tiny thing. Turning 26 means that under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, you are no longer eligible to remain on your parents’ health insurance plan.
It’s important to prepare for this big life change by ensuring that you have proper health care coverage lined up before your birthday arrives. Read below to learn more about what to do when you turn 26, how to prepare for the loss of insurance as well as how to obtain your own insurance.

When to start thinking about health insurance

The best time to start thinking about health insurance is before you turn 26. Whether that be two months, six months or even a year, you need to take ample time to understand your insurance options and make a cohesive plan for what you will do when you are removed from your parents’ insurance. Healthcare plans can be complex to understand for the first time.
As your 26th birthday approaches, it’s important that you think about the health insurance options available to you in advance. Don’t wait until you turn 26 to arrange your insurance plans – if you do so you will find yourself potentially without coverage for a point in time. 

Obtaining health insurance

There are various ways to obtain health insurance. From health plans available through your employer, to plans available on the marketplace, there is an option for everyone.
Employer-sponsored plans can be obtained if your job provides health insurance benefits. Check with your employer to see if you’re eligible to enroll in their health plan. Many employers provide health insurance as part of the employee benefits package.
If your employer doesn’t offer insurance, or if you are self-employed, you can obtain insurance through the online marketplace at healthcare.gov. This platform allows you to choose from various plans with different levels of coverage, as well as a range of premiums and out-of-pocket costs. You can compare options to purchase a plan that fits your personal health needs and budget.
Depending on your income, age and family size, you may also be eligible for subsidies to help you pay for your health plan. The Advanced Premium Tax Credit subsidy lowers monthly health insurance payments, or premiums. The Cost Sharing Reduction subsidy reduces the out-of-pocket costs paid during a policy period – usually a year – for health care services.
Medicaid is also an option if your income level meets the eligibility criteria. Medicaid is a government program that provides health insurance to low-income individuals and families. 

The importance of health insurance

Having health insurance is crucial to protecting yourself from unexpected medical expenses as well as ensuring that you remain healthy through routine check-ups and visits. Turning 26 and losing your parents’ insurance can be nerve-wracking because of how vital health insurance is. Educate yourself about the different types of plans available to you and what kind of insurance, if provided, you receive through your employer. Figuring out this information before your 26th birthday allows you to be well-prepared for this important transition.

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