THE BLOG

Health Insurance for College Grads

05/22/2016 04:59 pm ET

You've just graduated from college and you're feeling invincible. Student loans are a burden, but other than that you're ready to take on the world. But what if you're in an accident or have a health issue?

Before you head out into the world, take a few minutes to think about health insurance. Here are four things to consider about post-grad health insurance protection.

--Examine your current health coverage. Perhaps your student coverage won't terminate on graduation day, and can fill the gap until you qualify at work. Be sure to get it in writing!

--Stay on your parents' plan. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, you can stay on your parents' plan until age 26. Your parents may have coverage through their jobs but probably didn't include you if you were covered under a less expensive student health plan. After graduation, if your parent decides to add you back onto a work-based health insurance policy, the costs at many companies could be an additional $500 a month or more! There are less expensive alternatives.

--Get your own Obamacare policy. Under the Affordable Care Act, you can only enroll in health coverage during the open enrollment period, which runs from November 1 through January 31 each year, except if you qualify for a special enrollment period. You have to enroll within 60 days of that qualifying event. Then it could take as long as six weeks for coverage to start.

While college graduation is not considered a qualifying event for special enrollment, you may qualify for special enrollment if graduation causes you to lose your qualified student health plan coverage or if you move to a different state.

The government website www.Healthcare.gov allows you to search for traditional plans available in your state. You can search and apply online at this efficient government website.

--Consider short-term health insurance, not an Obamacare plan. At www.AgileHealthInsurance.com you can search for short-term health insurance policies designed specifically for more temporary coverage until you get benefits from your job. If you're healthy and have no pre-existing conditions, this could be a far less expensive alternative than Obamacare or your parents' coverage. (In the example above, where a parental plan cost $495 per month, the graduate found her own short-term plan for $43 per month!)

It's easy to compare the various offerings. The variables include:

  • Deductibles, which range from $250 to $10,000;
  • Co-insurance costs, which could range from zero to 20 percent;
  • Maximum out-of-pocket expenses, which typically range from $2,500 to $9,000;
  • Length of coverage, which typically ranges from one month to 12 months. (You can renew at the end of the term, but you have to reapply.)

Application is simple and done right from the site in minutes. The vast majority of applicants are accepted instantly. Once approved online, your coverage starts the next day and you can print out your own health insurance card.

Sam Gibbs, Executive Director at AgileHealthInsurance.com, says: "Don't let yourself become overwhelmed by the process. What you're really looking for is an affordable health insurance option to carry you through this period of uncertainty over your job prospects and workplace coverage."

Whether you're just trying to bridge the period until your job-related coverage takes over, or you're uncertain about your future, don't ignore the potential need for health insurance coverage. Yes, you'll get treated in an emergency room even if you don't have insurance -- but then you'll face paying the bills or bankruptcy. Subsequent enrollment in Obamacare won't cover past services.

Buy some sort of health insurance coverage. Those uninsured health care costs could bury your finances before you start your post-graduate life. And that's the Savage Truth.

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