Best Health Insurance for Young Adults

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Contributor, Benzinga
April 16, 2024

Young adults face some unique challenges when it comes to health insurance. It needs to be affordable, as you may be in the early stages of your career. You also may not use health insurance as much when you’re younger, depending on your overall health. And you may not be used to paying for your own health insurance if you were included under parental coverage until recently. Learn more about the best health insurance for young adults.

Quick Look: Best Health Insurance for Young Adults

6 Best Health Insurance for Young Adults

What’s the best health insurance for young adults? Here are Benzinga’s picks.

1. Best for Same-Day Coverage: UnitedHealthcare

UnitedHealthcare has an extensive network with more than 1.3 million health care professionals and 6,500 facilities. It also has two mobile apps to help you keep track of your care and coverage.

The UnitedHealthcare app helps you find in-network care and talk to doctors by video 24/7. You can also manage claims, prescription refills, and estimate costs. It also serves as a digital ID card.

The UnitedHealthcare Healthy Pregnancy app is helpful for those starting a family. You can search for early signs of pregnancy, track your pregnancy, and call a registered nurse 24/7. This app is available to those enrolled in certain employer-sponsored plans.


  • UnitedHealthcare has one of the larger networks out there
  • You can get services through their 24/7 video care services
  • A digital ID card makes it easier for you to carry your records, medications and other info with you


  • While United has a lot of options, providers, and services, its prices can be higher than you might have anticipated

2. Best for Nationwide Coverage: Blue Cross Blue Shield

Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) is one of the largest health insurers in the country, with more than 1.7 million doctors and hospitals in its network. It’s the largest network of any insurer, so if you’re concerned about finding in-network providers or if you travel frequently, BCBS could be a good choice.

BCBS is divided into 34 independent companies. That means each company has its own customer service department, mobile apps, and claims department. The experience you have with BCBS depends on which company you’re signed up with.


  • The sheer scope of the company means that you could stay with BCBS for some time, even if you move often
  • BCBS has the largest provider network of any carrier
  • The company doesn’t outsource any internal services


  • Remember that BCBS is regional, and that can cause so variances in plans, coverages, providers, etc.

3. Best for Access to Specialists: Kaiser Permanente

One of the most frustrating aspects of health insurance is getting your health care providers to communicate with your insurance company (and vice versa). Kaiser Permanente resolves this issue by being both an insurance company and a health care provider.

Kaiser Permanente offers much of its care in Kaisier Permanente facilities. These facilities offer multiple services, including primary care, pediatric care, specialist care, and a pharmacy, under one roof. This is a big help for young families, as you can get many of your health care needs taken care of in one trip.

Kaiser Permanente is an HMO. This helps keep plans affordable, but you typically can’t see out-of-network providers unless it’s an emergency.


  • Kaiser helps you see all providers in-network
  • The health and wellness options provided by Kaiser are extremely useful for most of the population


  • Sadly, Kaiser is not available for most U.S. residents
  • Though Kaiser’s prices are low, they are not the most competitive in the industry

4. Best for Pharmacy Programs: Cigna

Cigna offers affordable health insurance through employers and state Marketplaces. It’s available in 10 states, and it offers coverage in more than 30 countries and jurisdictions.

Cigna offers 24/7 U.S. customer service for medical and dental plan members, which allows you to talk to them when it’s convenient for you rather than when it’s convenient for the health insurance company. Cigna also offers mobile apps that allow you to view claims and ID cards, access your account balances, search for providers, and look up the costs of medical procedures.


  • Customer service is available around the clock
  • Dental and medical plans can be combined
  • The Cigna is one of the easiest to use in the industry


  • Cigna has a limited reach for certain consumers

5. Best for No Enrollment Period: Sidecar Health

  • Sidecar Health Access Plan
    Best For:
    No enrollment period health insurance
    securely through Sidecar Health Access Plan's website

    Plans referred to above are excepted benefit fixed indemnity insurance products marketed and administered by Sidecar Health Insurance Solutions, LLC and underwritten by Sirius America Insurance Company or United States Fire Insurance Company, depending on the state. As an excepted benefit plan, it does not provide comprehensive/major medical expenses coverage, minimum essential coverage, or essential health benefits. You cannot receive a subsidy (premium tax credit and/or cost-sharing reduction) under the ACA in connection with your purchase of such an excepted benefit fixed indemnity insurance plan. Also, the termination or loss of this policy does not entitle you to a special enrollment period to purchase a health benefit plan that qualifies as minimum essential coverage outside of an open enrollment period. Coverage and plan options may vary or may not be available in all states.

With Marketplace or employer-sponsored health insurance, you can only enroll at certain times. Sidecar Health allows you to enroll in its Access Plan at any time. Its Access Plan is a fixed indemnity plan. This type of plan pays a fixed amount for medically necessary services.

That means you can use Sidecar’s app to shop for health care services. If you find a provider who charges less than what Sidecar pays, you keep the difference. If the provider charges more, you make up the difference. You pay for the care at the time of service using a Visa benefits card, which can get you discounts from providers as well since you’re paying with cash.


  • You can choose an indemnity plan that will help you control costs
  • There are instances in which Sidecar might return the difference to you for services you’ve overpaid for


  • Though you can enroll at any time, make sure you still do your due diligence before making a decision
  • Using the Visa benefits card may be a confusing process for some policyholders

6. Best for Short-Term Health Plans: Pivot Health

  • Pivot Health
    Best For:
    Comparing short term health plans
    securely through Pivot Health's website

    Availability of plans and policy duration vary by state.

Short-term health insurance is coverage that can last up to one year under federal law. Some states may limit short-term plans even more. States also determine whether you can renew your plans, and the longest you can have short-term health coverage for is 36 months.

These plans are designed to help you through temporary coverage gaps. They have high deductibles and annual coverage limits. They may not cover essential benefits like maternity care or prescription benefits.

Pivot Health allows you to personalize a short-term health plan based on a range of factors. You can compare plans side-by-side and sort plans by plan benefits, monthly cost, network type, deductibles, plan limits, and your maximum out-of-pocket costs.


  • Short-term plans can last up to a year
  • In certain states, you might be able to keep this coverage for 36 months
  • High annual coverage limits help you receive better care


  • Keep in mind that Pivot Health may not have the same benefits or provider lists as you previous coverage
  • High deductibles could cause problems when you seek certain services

Key Points

  • States that use the federal Marketplace ( have open enrollment from Monday, November 1, 2023, to Saturday, January 15, 2024.
  • You can stay on a parent’s health insurance plan until you turn 26.
  • If that plan was purchased through the Health Insurance Marketplace, you can stay on your parent’s plan until December 31 of the year you turn 26.

Open Enrollment Marketplace Coverage

If you don’t have health insurance through an employer or through your parents, you’ll need to buy it on your own. One of the best health insurance options is coverage through your state’s Health Insurance Marketplace. All state Marketplaces have open enrollment once per year. Here’s what you need to know about open enrollment.

  • States that use the federal Marketplace ( have open enrollment from Friday, November 1, 2024, to Wednesday, January 15, 2025.
  • If you enroll by December 15, 2024, your coverage will start on January 1, 2025.
  • If you enroll after December 15, 2024, your coverage will likely start on February 1, 2025.
  • States that have their own Marketplaces don’t have to follow the federal open enrollment period, but they can’t end it any sooner than December 15, 2024.

You may also be able to enroll if you qualify for a special enrollment period. For example, if you’ve recently lost coverage, you may be entitled to a special enrollment period.

Buying Health Insurance After Turning 26

You can stay on a parent’s health insurance plan until you turn 26. If that plan was purchased through the Health Insurance Marketplace, you can stay on your parent’s plan until December 31 of the year you turn 26.

Once you can no longer be on your parent’s health insurance dependents list, you’ll need to find new coverage. If your employer offers health insurance, that’s often the best bet. You’ll be able to enroll in your employer’s plan because losing coverage qualifies you for a special enrollment. If your employer offers health insurance and you decide not to take it, you won’t qualify for any tax subsidies for Marketplace plans, and you’d have to pay full price.

If you don’t have access to employer insurance, you can enroll in a Marketplace plan. You’re entitled to a special enrollment period if your coverage ends outside of open enrollment. If you’re not your parent’s tax dependent, you can qualify for tax subsidies to help cover your health insurance costs. If you’re a tax dependent, you won’t qualify for tax subsidies. Depending on your income, you may qualify for Medicaid.

Finding the Best Health Insurance for Young Adults

You have many options for health insurance as a young adult. These include but are not limited to:

  • Staying on your parent's health insurance until you're 26 or otherwise eligible
  • Check your Medicaid eligibility
  • Get a plan from the Healthcare Marketplace
  • Look into a catastrophic health plan
  • Look into a short-term health plan

Take the time to evaluate your options and choose a plan that meets your needs. For more information, review Benzinga’s insurance articles.

Staying on a Parent’s Plan vs. Buying Your Own Health Insurance

In most cases, you can stay on a parent’s health insurance plan until age 26. Before your 26th birthday, you’ll need to find another solution, which means you’ll want to start your research well before that date.

Even if you’re eligible to stay on your parent’s plan, you might choose to purchase your own health coverage before age 26 or to enroll in the an insurance plan offered through an employer coverage.

If you live on your own and aren’t claimed as a dependent, you have several options. If your parents still claim you as a dependent, it may make sense to stay on your parent’s plan because you may not qualify for subsidies with an individual plan. Health insurance subsidies for plans under the Affordable Care Act consider household income, meaning they include your parent’s income if you live at home.

Generally, you can join or stay on your parent’s plan even if you are:

  • Married
  • Not living with your parents
  • Attending school
  • Not financially dependent on your parents
  • Eligible for a health insurance coverage through an employer plan

Consider your options carefully and read the fine print twice. If you’re away at school or live away from home, your parent’s plan may not provide the level of coverage you need.

For example, if your parent’s plan is an HMO and there are no in-network providers where you live for school, the plan probably won’t pay for your out-of-network coverage unless it’s emergency care. This can be a consideration for PPO plans as well, where insurance coverage will apply but out-of-pocket costs may be higher for out-of-network coverage.

Do You Qualify for Medicaid

Medicaid, a joint federal and state program, is designed to provide free or low-cost essential health care for low-income households. Millions of Americans utilize the program, although income qualifications vary by state.

Medicaid eligibility is based on your income relative to the federal poverty level (FPL), which is $14,580 for single-member households in 2023. If your income is between 100% to 200% of the FPL, you may qualify for Medicaid coverage with no premiums. Medicaid is administered at the state level, subject to federal rules.

In some states, the program goes by a different name, like Medi-Cal in California. To check your eligibility based on income, you can use the calculator on For some states like California, you’ll be redirected to the marketplace for your state to find more information.

Check Out The Healthcare Marketplace (

Created with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Marketplace at provides a centralized starting point for buying ACA-compliant health insurance plans.

You’ll also find short term health insurance options for your area — but some states use their own marketplace to list options and for residents to secure health care coverage. Depending on income and plan choice, both cost-sharing and premium assistance may be available for Marketplace plans.

As your income grows, cost-sharing provisions phase out, leaving only premium assistance, which then also phases out at a higher income level. ACA Marketplace plans offer a list of required coverages including but not limited to:

  • Prescription drugs
  • Preventive and wellness services
  • Emergency services
  • Hospitalization
  • Pregnancy, maternity and newborn care

Several other related coverages are included but most plans do not include dental or vision care for adults. Dependent children are covered for dental and vision, however. If you choose a Marketplace plan and need vision or dental care, consider using a discount dental plan or vision plan.

Marketplace plans are sorted by metals groups. Bronze-level plans have the lowest premiums but also potentially larger out-of-pocket expenses. Starting with silver-level plans, you may qualify for cost-sharing and for premium subsidies that reduce your overall health insurance costs through a tax credit. Gold and platinum-level plans generally offer higher levels of coverage and lower out-of-pocket expenses in exchange for higher premiums than bronze and silver plans.

Marketplace plans are subject to fixed enrollment periods during which you can join a plan. The most recent open enrollment was between November 1 and December 15. If you have a qualifying life event, such as you lose your health insurance coverage elsewhere, you may qualify for a special enrollment period.

Catastrophic Health Plans

If you’re under 30, you’re also eligible to purchase a catastrophic health insurance plan. Deductibles are high with catastrophic plans but premiums are low. advises that if you qualify for a premium tax credit based on your income, a bronze or silver plan may be a better value than a catastrophic health plan, which isn’t eligible for tax credit subsidies toward premiums.

Expect a deductible of $9,450 for catastrophic coverage in 2024, after which the insurer pays for all covered services with no coinsurance or copayment. Not all catastrophic health insurance plans offer preventive care. Prescriptions, lab services, radiology and other services often aren’t covered either, so it’s important to understand what is covered and where the coverage has gaps.

It’s best to think of catastrophic coverage as hospital coverage or coverage for extended illnesses. In effect, a catastrophic health insurance plan makes the consumer responsible for many small and medium expenses and it puts a ceiling on your potential higher expenses.

Short Term Health Insurance Plans

If you find yourself between enrollment periods and don’t have a qualifying life event that allows you to enroll with a special enrollment, a short term health insurance plan can provide an interim solution. The advantages of a short term health insurance plan are that you can enroll at any time and that premiums are often more affordable. However, premiums are lower for a few reasons.

Short term health plans aren’t required to have the same coverages as ACA-compliant plans, which means some preventive services may not be covered. As another important consideration, preexisting health conditions also may not be covered. Short term health insurance plans are now available for terms of up to 364 days, a vast improvement over previous ACA rules that limited short term health insurance to 90 days. While the federal mandate requiring health insurance coverage has been removed, New Jersey has its own state-level mandate and California has advanced legislation to require health insurance for state residents.

Due to its limited coverage, it’s likely that short term health insurance won’t meet the requirements in these states.

High-Deductible Health Insurance Plans with Tax Advantages

Young adults are in a unique position to take advantage of a high-deductible health insurance plan (HDHP) combined with a health savings account (HSA).

While this structure can be riskier for families or people with more frequent healthcare needs, young adults in good health can benefit from lower premiums and tax-free savings for approved medical expenses. HSA funds can also be used to pay deductibles, copays and coinsurance. At the same time, those who feel they may never reach their deductible will benefit greatly from paying lower premiums and adding money to their HSA or FSA. Keep in mind, your needs might change, and you may need to change your policies from year to year depending on your medical needs or the size of your family. For example, a family with several children may not like an HDHP. However, single individuals or couples with no children and very few health needs may prefer this arrangement

HDHPs have a minimum deductible of $1,500 per individual and $3,000 per family for 2023. Maximum out-of-pocket expenses can be high as well, with caps of $7,500 for individuals and $15,000 per family. However, an HDHP makes you eligible for an HSA, which is a powerful tool for preparing for future health expenses. The tax-free structure of HSAs helps to supercharge your health savings and when used for approved medical expenses, which can include dental and vision care often not covered by health insurance plans, your withdrawals are tax-free as well.

Accrued savings in HSAs can also be used for retirement purposes once you reach a qualifying age. Withdrawals used for retirement income are subject to income tax at the time of withdrawal, much like a 401(k) or IRA. An HSA combined with a high-deductible health insurance plan allows healthy young adults to use the power of compound interest to build sizable health savings and save money on monthly health insurance premiums.

Frequently Asked Questions


Is health insurance required?


The federal mandate that required health insurance has been lifted but some states have enacted state-level mandates that require residents to have health insurance. Even where not required, health insurance can protect your family against catastrophic healthcare costs and help make routine medical expenses more predictable.


What does health insurance cover?


Most plans offered by various health insurers provide the 10 essential health benefits that were part of Obamacare requirements. Coverages include preventive and wellness services, prescription drug coverage, emergency services, ambulatory services, lab services, pediatric services, and more. Many plans cover a wider range of healthcare expenses but may cost more than basic plans or may have higher out-of-pocket costs for some services.


How can I save money on health insurance?


For healthcare plans that comply with the Affordable Care Act, only a handful of rating factors affect your premium. These include age and location, at least one of which can’t be changed. Smokers will pay more in most cases and your choice of plan level can affect premiums as well. Choosing a high deductible health insurance plan can reduce the cost of premiums. These plans can be combined with a health savings account to take advantage of tax-free savings for healthcare expenses.

About Melinda Sineriz

Melinda specializes in writing about mortgages. student loans, personal loans, insurance, managing credit and debt, and credit cards.