If you’re still on your parents’ health insurance plan, you probably already know that the clock’s ticking. Under the Affordable Care Act, adult children can stay on their parents’ policy until they turn 26.
Until that birthday, it can be nice not to have to worry about it — and even nicer to have one fewer bill to pay. After all, health insurance seems so complicated, right? From reviewing your options to picking the right plan to paying premiums, it all sounds like such a chore.
Still, sometimes it makes sense to consider making the switch before you turn 26 — costs, complexity and all. That’s because even though your parents’ plan may cover you, it isn’t necessarily built for your needs now that you’re getting older.
3 Reasons to Opt Out
So, should you stay on your guardians’ or parents’ health insurance, or would it be better to move on to your own plan once and for all? If any of these three situations apply to you, it might be a question worth thinking over.
- You live in a different city from the ‘rents. Depending on your parents’ plan type, their policy may restrict its network of providers based on geography. So, if your hometown is in rural Oklahoma but you’ve since moved to downtown Manhattan, having a geographically limited network can hold you back from getting the care you need.
- You’re thinking about having a baby.
Whether or not you have plans to expand your family now or in the future, know this: Large group plans, including those often offered by employers, don’t always cover pregnancy-related costs like labor and delivery for dependents (that’s you). This is because, even though federal law mandates maternity coverage for policyholders, it doesn’t require it for dependents (still you).
- You don’t want your parents to know everything. Even if you’re still on parental insurance, once you turn 18, your medical records can’t be shared with others unless you expressly allow them to be. Now, this includes your parents, but if you’re on their insurance, there’s a possibility that statements and bills — such as explanation of benefits documents that outline any care you receive — will get sent to your parents’ mailbox instead.
Where to Go From Here
If you’re considering opting out, you’ve got options. Most people have to wait for open enrollment to pick a plan, so check to see whether you qualify for a special enrollment period, which gives you the choice to sign up for a health insurance plan on healthcare.gov outside of the open enrollment period.
Special enrollment periods are triggered by specific events. For instance, if you suddenly find yourself without health coverage because your parent lost their job (and their insurance with it), or you get married, move or have a baby, you may qualify. But eligibility can vary from situation to situation, so use this screening tool to see if a special enrollment period is a good fit.
If you are eligible, you can dive right into shopping for plans. But even if that’s not the case, it’s still possible to get additional or transitional coverage until you’re able to get a new plan. For one, supplemental health insurance pays out lump-sum cash compensation for certain health events, like being hospitalized, critically ill or injured. That payout may be especially handy if your doctors aren’t in your parents’ network, since supplemental insurance gives you cash whether you stay inside your network or not.
Short-term insurance is another option — and thanks to new health care legislation that extends short-term plans to a year or more in some cases, they aren’t so “short-term” after all. But with limited coverage for things like preventive care and preexisting conditions, those aren’t right for everyone. Just as with any health insurance plan, you’ll want to do some research to make sure your chosen health plan will be a good fit for your life.
The most important thing is that you’re covered. Whether you stay on your parents’ plan just a little longer or decide to make the jump now is a personal choice — but don’t feel like just because you’re still stealing your parents’ Netflix password that you can’t take a more independent approach to your health.