5 Ways to Find Health Insurance While You’re Young

We’re sure you can come up with a number of reasons to justify why you can get by without health insurance. After all, you’re young and healthy, and you probably don’t have a lot of extra cash to spare. Or maybe you’re waiting until you get a full-time job with benefits?

Focus on the Affordable Care Act

Need another reason to get health insurance? Come 2014, most Americans will be required to get covered, and those who don’t will have to pay a penalty.

Want to learn more? This video from the Kaiser Family Foundation breaks it down.

But in reality, going without health insurance can be risky. You never know when you might get in an accident, need an emergency procedure, or contract a serious illness. And if you’re living without a safeguard, you could be in for some crushing medical debt.

Approximately 19 million Americans ages 18-34 don’t have health insurance, according to Young Invincibles, a national nonprofit advocacy group for young people.

"Most people in this age group want to get covered, it’s just a matter of finding coverage they can afford", says 28-year-old Jen Mishory, deputy director of Young Invincibles.

Here are five accessible ways to get the coverage you need right now:

Piggyback on Your Parent’s Health Plan

Affordable care act allows you to piggyback on your parent's health insurance

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, you have the option to stay on a parent’s health insurance plan until you turn 26. But keep in mind that if you live miles away from your parent, like Travis, you’re most likely beyond the health plan’s network and could experience coverage limitations.

Tips for taking this route:

  • Ask your parent if he or she can afford to add you to his or her health plan and how you might contribute to the cost if needed.
  • Check the limitations of your parent’s health plan, paying special attention to restrictions for out-of-network and dependent individuals, to determine how you’ll be covered.
  • Don’t rest on your laurels. You’ll inevitably reach the age in which you’ll be booted from your parent’s plan, so start investigating health insurance alternatives well before your 26th birthday.

Find a Job That Offers Coverage (You Might be Surprised Who Does)

Receive health care benefits through your employer

Many companies offer health insurance plans as part of their benefits packages for employees. If you are hired for a contract or part-time position, you might not be eligible for coverage, but there are workplaces such as Starbucks that offer it whether or not you put in 40 hours a week.

Tips for taking this route:

  • Ask about benefits when interviewing for a full- or part-time job.
  • Find out whether there is a waiting or probationary period before your new health insurance begins.
  • Don’t forget to keep paying on your current health plan until the coverage from your new job kicks in.

Buy Insurance on Your Own

Purchase individual health care.

Like to shop online? You can comparison shop for an individual health plan just as you would for any other good or service. (Alesha did it and was surprised how easy it was.)

“If you’re young and healthy you may be able to find something using eHealthInsurance or another online option like healthcare.gov,” Mishory says. “And starting in October, online marketplaces will offer the ability to shop for insurance and receive subsidies for the coverage based on your income.

Tips for taking this route:

  • Compare and contrast the different types of coverage available and the costs before choosing a health plan.
  • Make sure you understand key insurance terms and basic principles, such as: The higher a health plan's deductible, the lower the premium or monthly amount that you’ll pay.
  • If you’re still confused, put in a call to prospective insurers—it’s their job to help you find the right plan.

Get Health Care Coverage Through School

Get health coverage through your college or university.

More than half of all colleges across the U.S. offer student insurance plans, according to a 2008 report by the Government Accountability Office. So, depending on which school you attend, you might be able to find temporary coverage while you’re there.

“Oftentimes they [university insurance plans] are more affordable options because they’re running through the school and there’s a younger population buying it,” Mishory says. “But it depends on the school.”

Tips for taking this route:

  • Find out what’s already available to you as a student, such as free or low-cost medical services at your campus health center.
  • Ask your RA or advisor who to speak to on campus about health insurance, and prepare a list of questions for that individual.
  • Pay attention to possible stipulations in your school’s plan. For example, some plans don’t cover part-time students or have annual limits on prescription drug and overall medical coverage (this is set to change starting in 2014); others may have a limited pool of in-network doctors.

Look Into Government Assistance in Your State

Research state support of health care coverage and assistance.

The government provides health insurance assistance to people who might have difficulty finding it elsewhere.

For example, every state runs a Medicaid program which, in partnership with the federal government, offers affordable health coverage to Americans such as those with disabilities, pregnant women, individuals with very low incomes, and some people with children. Coverage varies from state to state, but in 2014, the program will be available to most single people under 65 who make approximately $15,000 per year or less.

Tips for taking this route:

  • Find out about Medicaid eligibility in your state.
  • If you don’t qualify, investigate other low-cost insurance options using the insurance finder at healthcare.gov.
  • If you still can’t find coverage, visit a community health care center in your area, which will charge you for medical services based on your income.