Affordable Care Act, Obamacare — June 8, 2015 at 11:32 am

Recent college grads: get smart about getting health insurance


If you just graduated from college, here are some helpful hints about health insurance.

It’s that time of year, and if you’re among those who just graduated from college, congratulations! You worked hard to get where you are today.

After the celebrations, you may start worrying about getting a job, finding a place to live and more. But one thing you don’t have to worry about is getting health insurance. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare), it’s easier than you might think.

If you haven’t yet turned 26, you may be able to stay on your parents’ plan. If your parents’ plan covers children, you can be added to or kept on your parents’ health insurance policy until your 26th birthday. This provision of the ACA applies even if you’re married, not living with your parents, aren’t financially dependent on them or are eligible to enroll in a plan offered by an employer after you land that big job.

There are a few exceptions, though, so it pays to check. Retiree-only health insurance plans are not subject to the rules requiring insurers to provide dependent coverage until age 26.

Lara Kawa, a Michigander who just graduated from Wayne State University, had three weeks of worries thinking the plan she was covered under would expire when she graduated. After looking into her options — and calling her father’s insurer directly to double-check — she learned that she is still insured under her father’s plan until she turns 26. But during that three-week period, she did a little research at the Get Covered America calculator and learned she’d be able to afford her own insurance if she needed it while looking for a job.

There was one plan that was only $11 a month, but the deductible was high at $6,500. There was another plan for about $85 a month with a deductible of only $150 and low co-pays. I would choose that one if I needed it. You don’t want to go with a high-deductible plan unless you absolutely have to.

For others who may not be able to stay on their parents’ plan, graduating from college may qualify you for a special enrollment period. In fact, anyone is eligible for a special enrollment period if they lose their coverage, move outside their coverage area or have another qualifying life change. The general special enrollment period is 60 days after you lose coverage. If you’re turning 26, that special enrollment period is extended to 60 days before and 60 days after the loss of coverage.

Like Kawa, many people are eligible for tax credits to help pay for their insurance. In fact, 88% of Michiganders who signed up during the last open enrollment period were eligible, and 48% of those paid less than $100 per month for coverage. If you are an individual making less than $16,243 a year, you could qualify for free or low-cost coverage through the Healthy Michigan Plan. Eligibility is based on income and family size.

Remember: If you don’t have insurance but can afford it, you may have to pay a fine. For this year, the fine is $325 per adult or 2% of your income, whichever is higher. Plus, you could be stuck with a huge bill if you get hurt. Without insurance, an ER bill for a sprained ankle is about $1,018 — or 156 Chipotle chicken burritos.

If you aren’t sure what your options are, or if you need help navigating the insurance Marketplace, one-on-one help is available through Get Covered America — including in-person help right in your community.

You can also visit or the Healthy Michigan website to learn more.

[Image credits: Top via COD Newsroom, via Flickr; bottom courtesy of Lara Kawa.]