• Koyal Group Training Services, College graduates should consider options for health insurance

    Communication, Communication Design

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    Devyn Bisson is a 22-year-old Orange resident about to graduate from Chapman University with a degree in film. She knows she'll need to think about health insurance after graduation, but not just yet.

    "It's the last thing I'm looking at," she says. "I'm way more preoccupied with how I'm going to make money."

    With graduation looming, college students have many big issues to face in the coming months. They may include signing up for health insurance, and facing deadlines and even fines for laggards.

    For Bisson, signing onto her parents' health plan — something millions of young adults have been allowed to do under the Affordable Care Act — isn't an option, and her current job as a lifeguard in Huntington Beach doesn't offer health benefits.

    The student health insurance policy she now gets at school will expire this summer, leaving her without coverage.

    "As far as what healthcare I'm going to buy," Bisson says, "I have not looked at that."

    Few people like to think about health insurance until necessary, and that may be especially true for college graduates starting out on their own.

    Open enrollment — the period during which you can sign up for a new health plan — is now officially closed, but many college graduates and others still may be able to buy insurance.

    The government offers several exceptions for people to enroll during the year, even after enrollment closes.

    These "qualifying events" include the birth or adoption of a child, marriage, divorce, losing eligibility on a parent's health plan upon turning 26, and moving to a new area. The loss of work-based insurance, school-based insurance or Medi-Cal also count. "Now that open enrollment is over, there must be a qualifying event, and losing a student health plan is one such qualifying event," says JoAnn Volk, senior research fellow with the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute.

    Not surprisingly, young people experience more life transitions that allow for special enrollment periods than other age groups, according to a recent report by Young Invincibles, a national organization that seeks to represent the interests of 18- to 34-year-olds.

    Know what's available

    New grads fortunate enough to have landed a job should ask about health insurance at work. Those younger than 26 can stay on or be added to a parent's health plan, if the parent agrees.

    Consumers in California can shop Covered California, the insurance exchange set up under the Affordable Care Act. Individuals with incomes below about $45,000 a year may qualify for tax subsidies that help lower their costs.

    Graduates earning less than roughly $16,000 annually may also be eligible for Medi-Cal coverage.

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