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How to Get on Your Parents' Health Insurance

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The Affordable Care Act, passed as part of the major health reform initiatives in 2010, includes a provision that allows young adults to remain on their parents' health insurance plans until the age of 26. This can be particularly important for college students who lose their school insurance after graduation and otherwise have no health insurance options.
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: Varies

Here's How:

  1. Find out what your parents' health insurance is. Your parents may have different insurance through different companies (like if they each get it through their jobs). Or your parents may self-insure if they work for themselves. Either way, find out the names of the companies your parents have insurance with -- because that's the company you'll have to be insured with, too.
  2. Have your parents talk to their employers. Chances are that your parents are not the first people at their job(s) to need to insure one of their older children. Have your parents talk to the Human Resources office at their work to figure out what their options are for adding you to their coverage.
  3. Call the health insurance company yourself. While you may need to work through your parents' company, it's still smart to be in touch with the insurance company as well. There may be special forms you need to fill out or a particular process the insurance company wants you to go through. Either way, making sure you -- and your parents -- know what needs to be done is of critical importance.
  4. Start early. It can sometimes take months between when you apply and when you officially are covered. Start early to avoid a gap in coverage.
  5. Explore your back-up options. Can you do COBRA through your school if there is a month or two when you won't have coverage? Can you self-insure until your insurance through your parents kicks in? Does your school's alumni office offer short-term health insurance plans that can get you through any gaps in coverage?
  6. Talk to your parents about payment. True, this is going to be your insurance -- but your parents are going to get the bill for it. Talk in advance about when your monthly payment is due to the company, when you'll need to pay your parents each month, and any other factors that might be an issue. Your parents are doing you a favor so it's best to make it as easy as possible for them. (Right?)
  7. Know your rights. It may be a cliché, but knowing your rights is especially important when it comes to health insurance. Because there are so many changes going on with all of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies themselves might be learning as they go, too. Make sure you know what your rights are so that, if the insurance company starts acting funky, you'll know exactly how to respond and what should -- and shouldn't -- be happening as you try to get on your parents' coverage.

Tips:

  1. Have your parents policy number(s) handy when calling their health insurance companies.
  2. Know the specifics of your parents' plan before you sign up (e.g., copays for seeing a doctor and getting a prescription, maximum out-of-pocket coverage, deductible, what happens if you get sick while traveling, etc.).
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