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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: The Best Health Insurance for Young Adults
- Best for Same-Day Coverage: UnitedHealthcare
- Best for Nationwide Coverage: Blue Cross Blue Shield
- Best for Access to Specialists: Kaiser Permanente
- Best for Pharmacy Programs: Cigna
- Best for No Enrollment Period: Sidecar
- Best for Short-Term Health Plans: Pivot
Table of Contents [Show]
- Best Health Insurance for Young Adults
- Open Enrollment Marketplace Coverage
- Buying Health Insurance After Turning 26
- Finding the Best Health Insurance for Young Adults
- Staying on a Parent’s Plan vs. Buying Your Own Health Insurance
- Do You Qualify for Medicaid
- Check Out The Healthcare Marketplace (Healthcare.gov)
- Catastrophic Health Plans
- Short Term Health Insurance Plans
- High-Deductible Health Insurance Plans with Tax Advantages
- Frequently Asked Questions
Best Health Insurance for Young Adults
What’s the best health insurance for young adults? Here are Benzinga’s picks.
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 is an insurance company that is dedicated to making the health care system work better for everyone. Its plans can serve customers of all ages, starting in childhood and continuing all the way through the retirement years. The company partners with more than 1.3 million health care professionals and over 6,500 hospitals to give customers the freedom to access healthcare wherever they are. This insurance provider has a strong financial standing and good ratings, making it a reliable option for just about anybody.
- People who want flexibility in their health care coverage
- People who want supplemental insurance coverage
- People who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid
- Offers a wide variety of plans
- Strong financial and customer service ratings
- ACA and non ACA plans available
- Not all plans ACA-compliant
- The website can make it difficult to get a quote
2. Blue Cross Blue Shield
Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) is one of the largest 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 35 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.
Blue Cross Blue Shield consists of 35 separate companies that provide health insurance for roughly one-third of Americans. The company serves all 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and many international areas.
While you look into the BCBS affiliates near you, understand what health plans are available as well as the health insurance cost. It offers extensive coverage that gives just about every American the opportunity to purchase a BCBS-affiliated health plan. However, be sure to read up on the company because the premiums and deductibles may not suit you and your circumstances.
- Desire for a new doctor with plenty of options
- No cap on annual maximum limits
- Comprehensive coverage with exclusive discounts and partnerships
- Coverage in all 50 states and outside the country
- Covers both generic and brand-name drugs
- Wide network of doctors, hospitals and specialists
- Plans offered through regional companies, meaning you must look to your regional company for specific policies
- Main customer service helpline may be difficult to reach
3. 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 Permanente is a not-for-profit health plan. Kaiser Permanente offers both health insurance and health care, which has resulted in excellent reviews from customers and rating organizations. Kaiser Permanente does have limited service areas, and you typically need to stay in-network for services unless you’re experiencing an emergency.
- People in Kaiser Permanente service areas
- People who don’t mind managed care
- People who like to manage their care online
- Many services available in one location
- Ability to make appointments online or using an app
- Good customer service
- Limited service area
- Need to stay in the Kaiser Permanente network for most services
Cigna offers affordable health insurance through employers and state Marketplaces. It’s available in 15 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 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.
Cigna Health Insurance offers low-cost private health insurance and Medicare Advantage and Supplement Plans for families and individuals. Founded in 1982 and based in Bloomfield, Connecticut, the company offers a wide array of health insurance plans including three Bronze plans, four Silver and one Gold. All Cigna plans are EPO plans, meaning they are all in-network. Free telehealth visits come with every plan and are available to customers 24/7.
The four-metal tier coverage plans include:
- Expanded bronze
Individual and family Cigna private insurance plans are all available on the Marketplace and through the Cigna website, as well as with licensed agents in each state. Because they are sold through the Marketplace, they can only be purchased during your state’s open enrollment period. Special enrollment periods apply for special circumstances.
- Easy access to benefits
- Pharmacy programs
- Savings and spending accounts such as HSA and FSA
- Supplemental plans
- Home delivery for prescriptions
- Health management mobile apps
- Easy ID card replacement
- Potentially high deductibles
- Not available in all 50 states
5. Sidecar Health
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.
Sidecar Health Access Plan is another approach to traditional health insurance. Instead of your health care providers billing your insurance, you pay upfront using the Sidecar Health payment card. This results in savings of up to 40% on healthcare costs for its customers.
Established in 2018, Sidecar Health Access Plan is based in El Segundo, California. Its plan options are easy-to-understand and allow you to shop upfront for affordable health care rather than receiving care and finding out what it costs later.
Learn more about Sidecar Health Access Plan and how it works.
Prefer to talk to an agent on the phone? Call 866-794-1192 to speak to a representative now.
- People who are younger than age 65
- People in relatively good health
- People who want to shop for affordable doctors, specialists or procedures
- People who want transparency in healthcare costs
- You can customize your plan
- It may reduce healthcare costs by as much as 40%
- It has a mobile app to access information on-the-go
- No provider network, so you can see any doctor with no referrals needed
- No enrollment period
- Plans are not compliant with the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
- Plans have an annual coverage limit
6. Pivot Health
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 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.
Pivot Health is your partner in big life changes that may require you to seek temporary health insurance.
Pivot Health can help you find short term health plans, supplemental insurance products and more. Compare plans from multiple providers and get insurance that fits your needs today.
- Comparing short term health plans from multiple providers
- Work with the most trusted short term health plan providers
- No network restrictions
- Telemedicine coverage
- Plans not available in every state
- States that use the federal Marketplace (HealthCare.gov) have open enrollment from Monday, November 1, 2021, to Saturday, January 15, 2022.
- 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 (HealthCare.gov) have open enrollment from Monday, November 1, 2021, to Saturday, January 15, 2022.
- If you enroll by December 15, 2021, your coverage will start on January 1, 2022.
- If you enroll after December 15, 2021, your coverage will likely start on February 1, 2022.
- 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, 2021.
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, 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 coverage before age 26 or to enroll in the health insurance plan offered through an employer.
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 family 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:
- Not living with your parents
- Attending school
- Not financially dependent on your parents
- Eligible for a health insurance plan through an employer
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 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 $12,490 for single-member households in 2019. 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.
n 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 Healthcare.gov. For some states like California, you’ll be redirected to the marketplace for your state to find more information.
Check Out The Healthcare Marketplace (Healthcare.gov)
Created with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Marketplace at Healthcare.gov 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 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
- 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 coverageelsewhere, 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. Healthcare.gov 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 $7,900 for catastrophic coverage in 2019, 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.
HDHPs have a minimum deductible of $1,350 per individual and $2,700 per family in 2019. Maximum out-of-pocket expenses can be high as well, with caps of $6,650 for individuals and $13,300 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 health insurance plans 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.