I’m Under 26. Should I Stay on My Parent’s Health Plan?

I’m Under 26. Should I Stay on My Parent’s Health Plan?

Young adults have more health insurance options than ever before! While having lots of choices can be a wonderful thing, it can also be overwhelming. This is especially true if you don’t have that much experience with choosing your own health insurance plan.

college student with computer on floor in library

As you probably know, you can join or stay on your parent’s health insurance plan until you turn 26, even if you:

  • Are married
  • Don’t live with your parents
  • Are going to school
  • Don’t count on your parents for money
  • Can sign up for your employer’s plan

This last bullet is an important one. Even if your job offers health insurance, you don’t have to take it. You can stay on your parent’s plan if you think it makes more sense for you. When I graduated college and got my first job, I went back and forth as to whether I should stay on my mom’s health insurance plan or switch over to a plan that my job was offering.

Talking to my friends, I found they were also facing a similar dilemma. But many of us didn’t even know what questions or issues to consider as we tried to make the right decision. If you are like us and are struggling with what to do, here are some things you should keep in mind as you decide whether or not to stay on your parent’s health insurance plan:

  • Will it cost more for your parents to keep you on their plan?

In many cases, if your parent already has other dependents on their plan (such as your other parent or siblings) it won’t cost them extra to keep you on. In this instance it might make more financial sense to stay with your parent’s plan, since you won’t have to pay for your own premium on a plan you got through a job or on your own. If you decide to go this route, it might be a good idea to work out a system with your parents of how you can help pay for your health care costs such as copays and the deductible.

If it does cost extra to stay on your parent’s plan, you might need to do a little bit more digging. Find out how much extra it will be to stay on their plan and see how that compares to what your costs would be if you got your own plan.

  • Are there doctors and hospitals in your parent’s plan’s network near you?

Do you live close to your parents? If so, it should be pretty easy to find doctors and hospitals in their plan’s network near where you live. This is important to take into account, because if you go to an out-of-network doctor you may have to pay more for your care.

If you do live far away (such as in a different state), it could be more difficult to find a network doctor nearby. In this case, it might be a better idea to consider buying a health insurance plan on your own or going with one through your employer. This way you can avoid higher out-of-pocket costs if you are unable to find a network provider. Depending on your income, you may be able to get help paying for your own health insurance plan by enrolling through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

  • Are you about to turn 26?

If your 26th birthday is right around the corner, you may want to consider going with your own health plan. This way you don’t have go through the process of choosing a health insurance plan again when you turn 26.

If you do decide to stay on your parent’s plan until you turn 26, you will be able to enroll in another health plan even if open enrollment is over. Turning 26 allows you to change health insurance plans during a special enrollment period. You can find more information about your health insurance options when you turn 26 on our website.

As you are contemplating each of these questions, make sure you talk to your parents. Your decision affects them as well, so it’s important that you are all on the same page before you make your choice.

If your job doesn’t offer health insurance but you decide that staying with your parent’s plan isn’t right for you, here are your other health insurance options:

Still have questions? Check out our FAQs or write them in the comments section.

Last update: 10/3/2017

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