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Guest post by Julia Lippman

Leading up to my 26th birthday, researching health plans was not high on my to do list. This birthday marks my official exit from the young 20s and a hop, skip and a jump away from 30.  If you’re like me, you’ve taken full advantage of the Affordable Care Act, allowing individuals the ability to stay on their parent’s health insurance plan.  Although I wasn’t thrilled about being dropped from my family’s plan, I knew I needed to find some health insurance.  As a graduate student, I assumed I could swiftly and easily opt into my school’s health insurance—ideally by clicking a couple of links online and then return to my steadfast annihilation of the current New York Times crossword puzzle.

I learned quickly that this process requires a bit more thought and effort.

Lesson #1: When switching health insurance, it’s essential to understand what circumstances an insurer will let you enroll into a policy.

My school’s provider only allowed enrollment in two instances

1)    During a specific period of time at the beginning of the spring or fall semester

2)     At the instance of a “life-change event,” such as turning 26.

My school’s health insurance covers a student from the date of enrollment through August, and offers a reduced rate for students who enroll in January (the beginning of the Spring Semester). Unfortunately, plans aren’t prorated for students who enroll in the middle of the semester.

What Does This Mean?

If I enrolled on my birthday in December, I’d have to pay about $1,000 more dollars for only a few weeks of coverage. I’d also need proof of coverage from my parent’s provider, which would take time to obtain (time I didn’t have).

#Lesson 2: You don’t necessarily lose coverage on your birthday.

I learned this lesson after making a few phone calls to my current insurer.  My school’s provider had forgotten to mention that I could remain on my parent’s insurance through the end of the month of my 26th birthday.

But What If You Aren’t a Student?

Fortunately, at the government has made a comprehensive and user-friendly list of the health insurance options available. This site has conveniently provided users with the tools to find a private insurer and to understand more about the individual insurance market.  In 2014, there will be state-based and federal online marketplaces that offer access to tax credits to help you buy plans, and losing dependent coverage status will allow you to enroll whenever you get dropped from that coverage.

Follow @YI_Care for other useful tidbits as you navigate the world of health care, student loans, the job search and more!

Cross posted from the Young Invincibles' blog.

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