The Affordable Care Act intends to make it easier for young adults – like college students – to get access to health insurance. Unfortunately, nearly 30% of young adults don’t have health insurance – not necessarily because they don’t want it but, rather, because they cannot afford it or otherwise don’t have access to coverage.
Perhaps the most important change is the ability for young adults to stay on their parents' health insurance policies (as dependents) until the age of 26. Additionally, on May 10, 2010, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius issued a statement notifying Americans that many health insurance companies had worked in partnership with the Department to allow college students to join their parents' policies when they graduated from college - instead of the September 2010 date previously agreed upon. Check with your parents' employers and health insurance providers about your ability to join their plan until you can get one of your own.
I'm graduating but don't have access to coverage at all. What do I do?
I posed this same question in an interview with Secretary Sebelius. She suggested the following:
- Check with your state insurance commissioner about what's available in your state.
- By mid-summer 2010, the Department of Health and Human Services "will have a Web site up and running that somebody can visit and figure out exactly what's available in your home location in terms of what companies are writing insurance policies and what they're charging."
- If you have a pre-existing condition, "there are a variety of different provisions available." Recent graduates in this situation "may well be eligible for a new high-risk pool that states will set up as kind of a bridge strategy to a new market. You may be eligible in the state for the existing high-risk pool, and that's something to check out."
Do I really need health insurance, though? I'm pretty healthy …
As Secretary Sebelius told me, "We would strongly recommend [having insurance coverage] because unfortunately, even though people may feel themselves to be young and healthy, they may be one accident or one diagnosis away from a lifetime of medical bills, and we see bankruptcies all the time from health-related debt. So not having insurance coverage is usually a pretty dangerous option."
Where should I start looking for health insurance if I'm graduating?
There are many places you can start looking. Check to see when your student insurance runs out; some policies carry through the summer. Check with your campus alumni office to see if there are programs available for graduating seniors. If you are under the age of 26, check to see if you can join as a dependent on your parent's plan (even if you are not technically a dependent otherwise). Check into insuring yourself individually, even if it's just for catastrophic coverage. Lastly, check to see what options you may have if you are going to graduate school or starting a new job.
Where can I go for more information?
- Check with your school and/or parents for more information on what plans they have access to
- White House's Health Reform Homepage
- Secretary Sebelius' May 10, 2010 statement on allowing students to stay on their parents' plans until the age of 26 when they graduate (instead of the original September 2010 date)
- Department of Health & Human Services Fact Sheet about young adults and the Affordable Care Act
- Department of Health & Human Services Question & Answer Sheet about young adults and the Affordable Care Act