Get Health Care for Your 20-Something

The Affordable Care Act will make getting health insurance easier for young adults. Here’s how to make the new rules work for your child.

A child grows up, leaves for college or work — and gets dumped from his or her parent’s health insurance plan.

Well, not exactly: Under provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act enacted earlier this year, young adults have a right to be carried on their parents’ health insurance policies until age 26. The provision takes effect Sept. 23.

About 30% of young adults have no health insurance, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Many have entry-level jobs that don’t provide health insurance, others cannot afford it, and still others feel they’re too healthy to bother. But doing without insurance can be a mistake, as one in six young adults experiences a chronic illness. Also, of course, anyone can suffer an accident.

If a parent has insurance that provides coverage for dependents, that coverage must be available to the parent’s children until they reach 26. A child need not live with the parent, be enrolled as a student or even be carried on the parent’s tax return as a dependent. A married child must be covered, however, though the coverage does not have to include the child’s spouse or children.

Plans must offer young adults the same coverage provided to dependents, at the same price.

So, if you or your child can benefit from the new law, what should you do?

First, check with the parent’s insurer, or employer. The law covers plans and policies that begin their yearly cycle on or after Sept. 23. While that means your plan may not accept a new enrollee for some months, many insurers have agreed to do so right away, without waiting for the start of the new plan year.

This could help avoid a gap in coverage for a young person who has recently graduated from college or become too old to be carried on the parent’s plan under the previous rules.

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