How Long Can You Stay On Your Parent’s Health Insurance? (2024)

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If you have health insurance through your parents, you can typically stay on their plan until you turn age 26, though there are exceptions.

Losing your parent’s health insurance doesn’t mean you should forgo coverage, but that’s what many 26-year-olds decide. The U.S. Census says 18% of 26-year-olds are uninsured, which is nearly 4 percentage points higher than 25-year-olds, and is the highest uninsured rate of any age.

There are plenty of ways to get your own health insurance once you turn 26, including through your employer, a subsidized plan through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace or a government program like Medicaid.

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How Long Can You Stay on Your Parent’s Insurance?

Young adults are allowed to stay on a parent’s health insurance policy until they turn 26, according to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In most cases, you can remain on your parent’s health insurance plan even if you:

  • Get married
  • Give birth or adopt a child
  • Start or leave school
  • Live elsewhere
  • Aren’t claimed as a tax dependent by your parents
  • Can qualify for employer-sponsored coverage at a job

Depending your parent’s health insurance, you may lose coverage the moment you turn 26, the end of that month or the end of that calendar year. If your parents have health insurance through their employer, you could be removed as a dependent on your 26th birthday (but it depends on the state and plan).

If your parent’s coverage is through the ACA marketplace, you won’t lose coverage right away. You can remain on a parent’s ACA health insurance plan through Dec. 31 of the year you turn 26. That means if you turn 26 in the middle of the year, you will still have coverage until the end of that year.

How Can I Stay on My Parent’s Health Insurance Until I’m 30?

Some states, like New York and Florida, allow young adults to stay on a parent’s health insurance plan until age 30. Many states also allow disabled dependents to remain on their parent’s health plan indefinitely.

Each state has its own requirements for children over age 26 who want to stay on their parent’s health insurance. Below are the states that allow dependent children to stay on a parent’s health insurance past age 26 and the eligibility requirements.

States where you can stay on your parent’s insurance past age 26

StateAge you can stay on your parents’ health insuranceEligibility requirement
Florida30Children must be unmarried and have no dependents of their own, and live with their parents or are students.
GeorgiaNo age limitDisabled dependents not capable of self-sustaining employment can stay on their parents’ health insurance indefinitely.
IdahoNo age limitDisabled dependents can stay on their parents’ health insurance indefinitely.
Illinois30Applies to veterans only.
IndianaNo age limitDisabled dependents not capable of self-sustaining employment can stay on their parents’ health insurance indefinitely.
IowaNo age limitDisabled dependents and full-time students can stay on their parents’ health insurance indefinitely.
MassachusettsNo age limitDisabled dependents not capable of self-sustaining employment can stay on their parents’ health insurance indefinitely.
MinnesotaNo age limitDisabled dependents can stay on their parents’ health insurance indefinitely.
MissouriNo age limitDisabled dependents not capable of self-sustaining employment can stay on their parents’ health insurance indefinitely.
NevadaNo age limitDisabled dependents not capable of self-sustaining employment can stay on their parents’ health insurance indefinitely.
New Jersey31Children must be unmarried and have no dependents of their own.
New York30Children must be unmarried and a resident of New York. There is no age limit for unmarried, disabled dependents not capable of self-sustaining employment.
OhioNo age limitDisabled dependents not capable of self-sustaining employment can stay on their parents’ health insurance indefinitely.
OregonNo age limitDisabled dependents can stay on their parents’ health insurance indefinitely.
Pennsylvania30Children must be unmarried, have no dependents of their own, and be a Pennsylvania resident or a full-time student.
Rhode IslandNo age limitDisabled dependents can stay on their parents’ health insurance indefinitely.
South CarolinaNo age limitDisabled dependents not capable of self-sustaining employment can stay on their parents’ health insurance indefinitely.
South Dakota29 or no age depending on situationFull-time student until the age of 29. Disabled dependents not capable of self-sustaining employment can stay on their parents’ health insurance indefinitely.
Wisconsin27Children must be unmarried and don’t have the option to get health insurance through their employer.
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

Health Insurance Options for 26-year-olds

There are multiple health insurance options if you’re losing your parent’s health insurance coverage. Your coverage options after age 26 depends on factors like your employment status, income and budget.

Health insurance through an employer

One of the easiest ways to get health insurance as a 26-year-old is through your employer if your company offers group health insurance as an employee benefit.

One of the biggest benefits of group health insurance is that it’s usually more affordable than an individual health plan unless that plan is heavily subsidized. In most cases, your employer pays a large portion of the monthly premium (or the entire premium), and the rest gets taken out of your paycheck.

Companies pay an annual average of $6,440 for single coverage premiums, while employees pick up $1,299 a year on average, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. That’s an average of $108 a month.

Health insurance through the ACA marketplace

When the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed in 2010, it led to the formation of the health insurance marketplace, where individuals and families can compare available health insurance plans. You can also qualify for premium tax credits and subsidies to reduce your costs if your income is below 400% of the federal poverty level. That’s $54,360 for an individual, $73,240 for a couple and $92,120 for a family of three.

Without those subsidies, ACA marketplace plans can be costly. The average unsubsidized ACA plan costs $386 monthly for a 27-year-old and $412 for a 30-year-old.

Most adults can only enroll in a marketplace plan during open enrollment, which is Nov. 1 to Jan. 15 in most states. Turning 26 and losing coverage through a parent is a qualifying life event that also allows you to purchase a plan via a special enrollment period (SEP) at any point during the year.

Health insurance outside the ACA marketplace

It’s possible to purchase health insurance outside the ACA marketplace, directly through a health insurance company. Some insurance companies sell individual health insurance plans directly to consumers. The same health plans may or may not be available through the marketplace, too.

Finding a health insurance company that sells private individual plans can be challenging. You may need to work with an insurance broker to find a company that sells private health insurance policies in your state. But you can’t qualify for premium tax credits and subsidies if you buy a plan outside the ACA marketplace.

Catastrophic health insurance

Catastrophic health insurance plans can be an affordable way for young adults to get health insurance after age 26. These plans are sold through the health insurance marketplace.

Catastrophic plans aren’t available to everyone. Catastrophic health plans are only for people under age 30, or people over age 30 who have a hardship exemption or affordability exemption and can’t afford a marketplace or job-based plan.

Catastrophic health plans have low premiums, but the deductibles are extremely high. You must meet your deductible before your plan will start covering certain medical services, so you end up paying for most of your medical care out-of-pocket. On the plus side, some routine and preventative care is covered for free before your deductible is met.

The average monthly cost for catastrophic health insurance is $247 for a 27-year-old and $267 for a 30-year-old.

COBRA health insurance

COBRA health insurance, which is an acronym for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, is a federal law that allows you to keep your group health insurance plan if you experience certain life events, such as getting laid off. Examples of qualifying events include:

  • Losing your job (voluntary or involuntary)
  • Leaving your job
  • Reduction in the number of hours you work
  • Losing coverage through death or divorce

COBRA usually allows you to keep your health benefits for 18 or 36 months, but it depends on the qualifying event. Not all group health insurance plans are COBRA-eligible, such as health plans from small employers.

The premiums can be very expensive since COBRA premiums aren’t subsidized. You instead usually pay the full monthly premium yourself. For instance, using the average $7,739 annual cost for overall premiums for single coverage in the employer-sponsored health insurance market, you would pay an average of $645 monthly with no help from the employer and that doesn’t include a 2% administrative fee that the COBRA law allows.

Medicaid

Medicaid is a health insurance program that is jointly funded by states and the federal government. Medicaid benefits are available to low-income individuals and families, pregnant women and people with disabilities. If you meet the income requirements in your state, you can apply for Medicaid through the health insurance marketplace or your state’s Medicaid agency. Medicaid costs are based on household income.

Medicaid plans cover a variety of medical services, including hospitalization, doctor’s visits, diagnostic testing and imaging, home health services, prescription drugs and physical therapy. All Medicaid plans provide dental coverage for children under 21, but not all plans have dental coverage for adults.

Short-term health insurance

Short-term health insurance can help you get temporary coverage during a transitional period, like turning 26 and losing coverage through your parents, or waiting to start a new full-time job with health benefits.

Short-term health insurance can be a cheap option for people who don’t expect many health care needs, but there are a few downsides. Pre-existing conditions aren’t usually covered, deductibles are usually high and short-term health plans often don’t cover many services that are basic in an ACA plan like prescription drugs and mental health.

Health insurance cost comparison for 27-year-olds

Type of coverageAverage monthly costs
Employer-sponsored health plan$108
Catastrophic health insurance$247
Unsubsidized ACA health plan$386
COBRA health insurance$645
Employer-sponsored and COBRA plans don’t base costs on age, so these averages are overall for group coverage. The COBRA average doesn’t include a possible 2% administrative fee.

When a 26-year-old Needs to Apply for Their Own Health Insurance Plan

If you’re currently on your parent’s’ health insurance plan and are about to turn 26, you’ll need to start applying for your own health plan unless you’re in a state that allows you to stay on the plan longer.

One exception is if your parents get coverage through the ACA marketplace. In that case, you have until the end of the calendar year to get other health insurance.

If you enroll in your own marketplace plan during open enrollment, you must apply before the end of the year to get coverage starting Jan. 1 of the following year. For example, you must enroll in a marketplace plan by Dec. 15 to get coverage that starts on Jan. 1.

It’s a different story if your parents’ have group health insurance through their employer. In that case, you may lose coverage when you reach age 26 or at the end of the month when you turn 26. In this case, you can qualify for a special enrollment period, which gives you 60 days after you lose coverage to enroll in your own marketplace plan.

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How to Compare Health Insurance Plans

Purchasing your own health insurance plan for the first time can be challenging, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the plan types, terminology and cost structure. Once you have a general understanding of how health insurance works, you can compare providers to find the best option for your needs.

When you get a plan, you’ll pay a monthly health insurance premium, which is the cost of having a health plan. Most plans also have out-of-pocket costs, like a deductible, coinsurance and copayments. Plans with higher premiums usually have lower out-of-pocket costs, meaning your insurance company pays more of your qualifying medical expenses.

If you’re looking to spend less on health insurance and don’t expect to have many health care needs, a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) may be a wise decision. On the ACA marketplace, Bronze plans typically have the highest out-of-pocket costs and lowest premiums, so they might be a good bet.

Related: Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum Health Insurance

Most health insurance plans work with a network, which is a large group of doctors, specialists (like dermatologists and cardiologists) and hospitals. Depending on your health insurance plan, you may only get coverage for medical services received in-network.

Preferred provider organization (PPO) plans allow you to go out-of-network, but you may pay higher premiums and more for out-of-network care than in-network care.

Some plans like health maintenance organization (HMO) plans require you to work with a primary care provider and get a referral to see a specialist.

There are many different health insurance plans available. Here are some of the most common plans and their key features:

  • HMO: An HMO limits coverage to in-network providers and requires a referral to see a specialist. These are often cheaper than PPOs.
  • PPO: A PPO allows you to get care in-network or out-of-network (usually at a higher cost), and referrals are not required.PPOs are often the most expensive types of health plans because they offer fewer restrictions.
  • EPO: An exclusive provider organization (EPO) plan only allows you to get coverage in-network, and you must get a referral to see a specialist. EPOs are similar to HMOs, but EPOs typically have a larger network.
  • POS: A point of service (POS) plan lets you visit doctors in-network or out-of-network, but referrals are required if you want to see a specialist.

Regardless of the type of plan, emergency services are always covered, and you won’t be charged more for going to an out-of-network hospital or clinic for emergency care.

How Long Can You Stay on Your Parent’s Insurance FAQ

Can you have two health insurances?

Yes, it’s possible to have two health insurance plans. For example, if you’re under age 26 and your parents cover you in two separate plans, one acts as the primary plan and the other acts as the secondary plan.

When you receive medical care, the primary insurance company submits the claim, and the secondary insurance company covers its portion (if the medical service is covered). Having two health insurance plans doesn’t provide double the benefits.

You don’t get to choose which plan is primary and which one is secondary. The health insurance companies’ coordination of benefits decides which plan is primary and which is secondary. That includes the so-called birthday rule when both parents cover you on separate plans. In that case, the health plan of the parent with the earlier birthday within the calendar year is considered primary.

Can I have my own insurance and be on my parent’s policy at the same time?

Yes, you can have your own health insurance plan while staying on your parents’ policy. This is called having dual coverage.

If you have two health insurance plans, one health plan is designated as the primary plan and the other is the secondary plan. If you have your own insurance, that policy is usually the primary plan and your parents’ plan is the secondary plan.

Can I stay on my parents insurance if I file taxes independently?

If you file your taxes independently, you’re still allowed to stay on your parent’s health insurance plan until age 26 (or the age limit in your state). Your ability to stay on your parents’ health insurance is only based on your age and is separate from your tax filing status.

Is health insurance mandatory?

Health insurance is not mandatory at the federal level. Prior to 2018, uninsured individuals paid a tax penalty, but that’s no longer in effect.

But there are states that require health insurance. Residents of California, District of Columbia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont are mandated to maintain health insurance coverage throughout the year per individual state laws.

Do young people need health insurance?

All young people can benefit from health insurance. Even when you’re young and healthy, accidents can still happen.

Between routine care, like vaccines and annual checkups, and potentially more serious situations, like an unexpected trip to the emergency room, paying for your medical expenses without insurance can get very expensive.

Health insurance plans help you pay for these expenses and provide financial peace of mind. If you needed surgery or wound up in the hospital, your health insurance plan would cover a large portion of the bill once you reach your deductible. That can help you avoid medical debt.

How Long Can You Stay On Your Parent’s Health Insurance? (2024)
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