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Should You Stay On Your Parents' Health Insurance Plan


The Affordable Care Act did a pretty cool thing back when it forced health insurance companies to allow people to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until they turn 26. Before that, health insurance companies could remove adult children while they were in college or while they were looking for a job post-graduation.

But if you’re under the age of 26, you don’t have to stay on your parents’ health insurance plan if you don’t want to, and in fact, there are a few reasons why you might want to get off it.

1. You’ve moved out of state

Your parents’ health insurance policy may not cover you if you go to college out of state or otherwise move out of your home state. One of the PolicyGenius interns, Kaleigh, ran into this problem last fall:

With [my mother’s] HMO plan, you have to stick to the plan’s network to be covered. So for me, that would be a doctor in Florida. If I choose to see a doctor out of network, I would have to pay for the full cost of that care.

This is true for the other most-common type of health insurance, a PPO, or preferred provider organization. You can get out-of-network care with your PPO, but it usually costs a lot more than in-network care.

I discovered this two summers ago when trying to get care in New York, and it was really confusing to me at the time. My mother’s insurance is provided by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont, which I assumed meant that I was covered by a nationwide network of Blue Cross Blue Shield providers. Spoiler alert: I was wrong.

2. Privacy concerns

Let’s get one thing out of the way: your medical records are your medical records, and only you and your doctors have the right to access them. Your parents can’t go snooping through them, for example, even though you’re a dependent on their plan.

Bills are another story. Doctors send bills explaining their services, and if you’re living at home or have your parents’ house listed as a permanent address, those bills may end up getting opened by your parents. This may be an issue if there’s a medical procedure or prescription you don’t want your parents to know about, such as birth control.

3. Maternity benefits may not be covered

Employer-sponsored and marketplace health insurance plans need to provide maternity coverage, but these rules don’t apply to child or adult dependents on their parents’ plans. According to Jezebel, 70% of insurance plans don’t offer any maternity benefits to non-spousal dependents. Other family planning services are usually not covered, either.

With health insurance plans now covering adult children until age 26, the lack of maternity benefits or coverage for family planning services has become more of an issue than ever, and may spark many women to seek other coverage options.

What are your other healthcare options?

If you’re a college student, your school might offer a health plan. This fulfills the ACA’s health insurance mandate despite being limited to the college’s health services.

If you’re out of college and have a job, your employer may offer health coverage. Check with your HR department to get more details.

You can also go on the health insurance marketplace during Open Enrollment and sign up for your own health insurance plan. Open Enrollment for 2016 starts on November 1st and ends January 31st.

If you don’t think you can afford a full health insurance plan, there is a type of insurance available for people under 30 and people with hardship exemptions called “catastrophic health insurance plans.” Catastrophic plans are designed to cover you in the event of high health insurance bills that would be impossible for you to pay for.. There are also health insurance subsidies for low-income individuals and families, which you may qualify for.

No matter what your health insurance situation, there are always options for staying healthy, and a lack of insurance or a high deductible shouldn’t stop you from seeking quality medical care.

About Adam Cecil

Adam Cecil is a Staff Writer for PolicyGenius, a consumer digital insurance company, and specializes in making sense of personal finance and insurance for the millennial audience. He's a graduate of New York University and has a B.F.A. in Dramatic Writing.

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