Reviewing your health insurance options after college
Getting health-care insurance is probably not high on your to-do list. You’re young and healthy—so who needs insurance? You do. Whether you're looking for a job now or your current employer doesn't offer health insurance, you don't have to be uninsured.
Why you shouldn't wait
An accident or a major medical crisis could happen to anyone at any time. If you don't have health insurance, you could be saddled with medical bills for years to come.
Getting a policy now is better than waiting. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, is a law that guarantees you certain rights as you shop for health insurance-as long as you don't go more than 63 days without coverage. If you wait, and you have a pre-existing condition such as asthma, the new plan can refuse to pay for related treatment for up to 12 months.
Where to find a policy
- Start with your parent's plan: By law a parent's plan must cover their children until age 26, even if you are married, don't live with them or they don't claim you as a dependent. But, if your employer does offer health-insurance, your parent's health insurance does then have the right to decline you coverage.
- Understand COBRA: The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) allows you to continue coverage under a parent's plan for at least 18 months, and sometimes longer, but you'll have to pay the entire premium.
- Check your state: Many states have insurance programs for which you may qualify. Check www.CoverageForAll.org for a state-by-state guide.
- Ask your school: Many colleges and alumni groups offer plans for recent grads. Some even allow grads to stay on their current college-offered plan for 90 days after graduation. Check with your alumni association and health center.
- Check unions and professional organizations you belong to: These groups sometimes offer insurance plans to their members.
- Temporary health insurance: Short-term policies are available, for up to a year, that will cover you while you look for a permanent plan. Get an idea of costs from http://www.ehealthinsurance.com/.
When you buy a health-care insurance policy, you have some control over cost. As with car insurance, the higher the plan's deductible, the lower the premium (monthly cost). For example, a policy with a $1,000 deductible means the policy won't pay medical bills until you've paid $1,000 in out-of-pocket costs.
Compare several policies and make sure you understand what's covered and what's not. The more coverage options you add to the policy, the more expensive the premiums.