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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Recent College Graduates Have Options to Buy Health Coverage—Including Financial Help

Kevin Oshinskie

Health Equity Intern

As the 2014 college graduation season draws to a close, young adults are saying goodbye to their alma maters and entering the working world. Many face the challenge of securing their first full-time job at a time when the economy is uncertain and jobs are scarce. The vast majority of recent graduates—racial and ethnic minorities in particular—start their working lives under the shadow of significant educational debt. As if that weren’t enough, many of these former students also face losing the health insurance that they purchased through their college or university. It is important that these recent graduates understand that the Affordable Care Act gives young adults affordable options for securing coverage—including access to the financial help available through the health insurance marketplace.

The Affordable Care Act allows young adults to stay on their parents’ health plans until age 26 

One of the earliest provisions of the Affordable Care Act required insurance companies to allow young adults up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans. This applies even to young adults who are not students, who no longer live with their parents, or who are married. 

Graduates have 60 days from losing insurance to access the health insurance marketplace, and may receive financial assistance

Although the Affordable Care Act’s first open enrollment period is over, special enrollment periods exist for those who experience a major life event, or “qualifying event,” such as getting married, having a baby, undergoing a large change in income, or losing their school-sponsored health insurance after graduating from college. Special enrollment periods last for 60 days after the qualifying event. During this time, an enrollee can access the health insurance marketplace in his or her state not only to buy coverage, but also to apply for financial assistance to help pay for the health plan he or she chooses. In fact, more than 80 percent of young adults will likely qualify for these premium subsidies. Because this 60-day period has already begun for many graduates, it is critical that we spread the word about this option now. 

Medicaid remains open for enrollment year-round

Enrollment for each state’s Medicaid program continues year-round. Some recent graduates may qualify for this program, especially if they live in a state that has expanded Medicaid to cover more low-income people. Different states have different income eligibility requirements, but it’s worth it for young adults to check their Medicaid eligibility, particularly if they are still looking for work or have children. 

Recent college graduates have several options for obtaining health coverage

Many young people today are graduating with debt and uncertain job prospects. They shouldn’t also have to worry about getting affordable health care. Staying on a parent’s plan, using special enrollment periods to get coverage through the health insurance marketplace, and checking on Medicaid eligibility will serve as good options for many young adults. By spreading the word, we can help make sure college graduates are aware of the options they have to get quality, affordable health coverage so they don’t fall through the cracks of our health care system.