How long can you stay on your parent's health insurance?

When you turn 26, you’ll need to find your own coverage.

Elissa

Elissa Suh

Published September 10, 2019

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • If you’re under 26, nothing restricts you from staying on parent’s health insurance

  • When you turn 26 you will lose the health coverage you get from your parent’s plan

  • There are a few different options for getting health insurance, including through work and the marketplace

Young adults can stay on a parent's health insurance plan until they turn 26. All health insurance providers have to allow young adults to stay on their parent's health insurance plan until their 26th birthday. After turning 26, you will need to shop for your own health insurance plan during a Special Enrollment period.

If you’re under 26, you can stay on your parent’s plan for any reason, even if you’re married, eligible for an employer's health insurance plan, living apart from your parents, or financially independent from them.

In this article:

How long can you stay your parent’s health insurance?

Getting covered under your parents' health insurance policy is convenient and cost-efficient. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) allows young adults to get coverage through their parent’s health plan until they turn 26 years old. There are no restrictions for staying on your parents’ plan — you can get covered this way under any circumstances, regardless of:

  • Marriage status
  • Parent status
  • Attending school or not enrolled in school
  • Residence (living with parents or not)
  • Financially independence (you can be claimed as a tax dependent or not)
  • Employer-sponsored health insurance eligibility

You will lose the health coverage you get from a parent’s plan when you turn 26.

After turning 26

Many people who get health insurance have employer-sponsored coverage — their workplace offers a health plan and subsidizes the cost, making it much cheaper than health plans you’d buy on your own. If you’re graduating from school or looking for a job, you might want to look for an employer that offers health benefits.

Otherwise, if you need to get an individual health plan, you can do so during Open Enrollment, a 45-day period designated for shopping for health insurance. However, losing health insurance coverage when you turn 26 years old is considered a qualifying life event that will open up a Special Enrollment period. That means once you turn 26, you will be given a window of time to get your own health insurance if you don’t get coverage from your employer.

If your parents have group insurance through their employer, then your coverage will typically end the month of your birthdate.

If your parents bought a marketplace health insurance policy, then your coverage will remain until the end of the calendar year. However, because Open Enrollment ends on December 15th, you’ll have to sign up for a marketplace plan before then if you choose to.

Extensions

Some states might offer extensions that let children stay on their parent’s health insurance beyond age 26. For example, in New York, unmarried children can continue getting insurance from a parent’s plan through age 29. Check with your state legislation to learn more.

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Alternatives to parent’s health insurance

After turning 26, there are many options for young adults to find affordable care, including opting into a spouse’s health plan. Young adults can’t join a new plan whenever they want though. Unless you get a new job and get coverage from your employer, you must either buy a plan during Open Enrollment as mentioned before, or qualify for a Special Enrollment period, which turning 26 will trigger.

Employer-sponsored plan

If you’re eligible for group health insurance from your work and didn’t opt into it before, you’ll be able to sign up after you losing your parent’s coverage on your 26th birthday. Job-based coverage is an inexpensive way to get health insurance. Contact your human resources department to notify them of your qualifying life event.

College-provided plan

Many colleges and universities provide students with health insurance at low or no cost.

Health insurance marketplace plan

You can buy a health plan on your own on the Obamacare marketplace on healthcare.gov. Learn more about how to apply for Obamacare.

COBRA

COBRA enables you to continue the health coverage you had under your parent’s plan, but usually at an unsubsidized cost. You can only get COBRA if your parents had group coverage, and if they would’ve been eligible for it themselves had they lost their jobs. Health insurance through COBRA is among the most expensive options and only lasts for a short term up to 36 months.

Short-term health plan

Health plans that last less than a year can help you bridge the gap until you enroll in a regular health plan. Short-term plans won’t provide the same comprehensive coverage as a traditional insurance plan and are best only in case of a major medical event. Learn more about short-term health plans](https://www.policygenius.com/health-insurance/glossary/short-term-plans/)

Medicaid

People with low income can qualify for Medicaid, health insurance provided by the government. Learn more about Medicaid.

Medicare

If you are disabled or have end-stage renal disease, you may be able to get coverage from Medicare, which otherwise provides health insurance for people over age 65. Learn more about Medicare.

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