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Health Insurance Tips for Recent College Graduates

Graduation is over and now you're one of the thousands of young adults ready to start pursuing your future career. And maybe you're a little freaked out by the uncertainty of it all. This year presents bright prospects for job seekers but it still may take some time to find that perfect first job. In the mean time, those of you who are insured on family or university health insurance plans may soon find yourselves without health insurance.

So, while you're polishing your resume and surfing the job sites, consider an affordable health plan. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1) Know your options - 2011 college grads may be able to choose from among the following coverage options:

  • Employer-based health insurance - This is how most Americans get their health insurance, but be sure you understand how your benefits work and how much you'll be required to contribute towards the cost of your coverage and medical care.
  • Individually-purchased health insurance - If you're young and relatively healthy, individual health insurance coverage can be an affordable option. eHealthInsurance represents over 180 health insurance companies offering thousands of individual health insurance plans nationwide.
  • Your parents' health insurance plan - Health care reform allows adult children to retain coverage under their parents' health insurance policy until age 26.
  • Short-term health insurance - Consider short-term coverage if you expect to have employer-based health insurance within six months and only want basic protection for emergencies.
  • Government high-risk pools - This may be an option if you're declined for coverage on your own due to a pre-existing medical condition.
  • Going uninsured - Not really an option: don't put your financial future on the line by going without coverage!

2) Take advantage of health care reform - Several key components of health care reform can help grads when they purchase new individual health insurance policies on their own:

  • Lifetime dollar limits on coverage have been done away with for most medical services
  • Most new individual and family plans provide up-front coverage for certain preventive care services - that means at no cost to you, even if your deductible isn't met
  • High risk pools have been established for people with pre-existing medical conditions who may not qualify for coverage on their own.

3) Don't expect a free ride - In case you weren't taking notes, there was no "universal coverage" or "free" health insurance option included in the health care reform law. You're not automatically covered. In fact, starting in 2014, you'll most likely be required to purchase a health insurance plan on your own if you don't already have one. There's no time like the present to do the right thing, however, so get covered now. It's better than going uninsured and getting stuck with serious medical expenses in case of injury or hospitalization. 

4) Check your calculations before staying on Mom and Dad's plan- One of the most tempting options for many grads is to stick with their parents' health insurance policy until age 26. Before you do that, however, break out the calculator. Find out how much it costs your parents to keep you on their policy and compare that with quotes from leading health insurance companies in your area to see if it makes more sense to buy coverage on your own.

5) Newfound independence means a new budget - Your new independent life may require you to juggle a lot of new, unfamiliar expenses. It's a good idea to plan out weekly and monthly budgets for yourself. When you do, be sure to save some space for health insurance. Since costs can vary depending on where you live and what kind of benefits you value most, work with a licensed agent like eHealthInsurance.com to get free quotes for plans in your area. Healthy young adults in many states may be able to find coverage from brand-name insurers for as low as $70 a month1. 

6) Understand that the cost of a plan is about more than just monthly premiums - When reviewing quotes from different plans, keep in mind that the real-life cost of any health insurance plan is about more than the premiums you pay each month to maintain coverage. Pay special attention to the annual deductible you'll be required to meet before your coverage really kicks in, plus copayments and coinsurance. 'Coinsurance,' for example, is when you pay a percentage of the bill and the insurer picks up the rest. Some people don't realize it, but in many cases you'll still have to pay coinsurance even after your deductible is met. 

Learn More:

For more information about health insurance options for college grads and young adults, visit eHealthInsurance's consumer blog Get Smart - Get Covered.

1Based on sample quotes generated at eHealthInsurance.com for plans from a selection of carriers and states on December 17, 2010 for 25-year-old males and females. This does not constitute a guarantee of coverage. Actual, final premiums may vary based on a number of factors including state, ZIP code, sex, smoking status, health history, etc.

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