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Do You Need Health Insurance in Your Twenties?

According to US Census Data, Americans in their twenties are the least likely of any age group to have health insurance. Even if you are young, healthy, and poor, is going without health insurance an acceptable risk or just plain stupid?

In 2006, 29% of 18 to 24 year olds were uninsured, as were 26% of 24 to 34 year olds. Compare that to just 10% of Americans under 18 and 18% of Americans between 35 and 45.

Whether because of the cost, a feeling of invincibility, or just plan ignorance, more than a quarter of American twentysomethings don’t have health insurance.

Are you uninsured? If so, you may want to take a serious look at your health insurance options. Check out my review of eHealthInsurance, where you can compare plans from over 170 companies (including short-term plans for between jobs).

When we’re no longer covered by our parents’ health insurance plans and not yet covered by an employer-paid policy, health insurance represents an enormous expense to a student or non-working twentysomething. But just because you’re young, strong, and healthy doesn’t mean you should take the risk going without health insurance.

Insurance Costs Money, But the ER Costs More

You may be healthy in your twenties, but you’re not invincible. I remember when I was first out of college and earning peanuts, I resented paying for health insurance because I never went to the doctor and had no prescriptions. I still don’t, but I am happy to be insured.

That’s because doctor’s visits and common prescription drugs are not the reasons you need health insurance. You need health insurance “in case”. You need health insurance in case you are in a terrible car accident and need emergency surgery. You need health insurance in case you are diagnosed with a disease and need to see specialists, and take unusual, very expensive treatments.

Such surgeries and treatments can easily cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. That’s why having health insurance – even in your twenties – isn’t just the healthy thing to do, it’s the economical thing to do.

How to Find Coverage

Most college students are covered by your parent’s insurance plan, but you lose that coverage upon graduation, or when you reach a certain age. The actual cut-off varies by state, but in most states the age is between 21 and 25.

If you’re already working full-time, or have a job lined up after graduation, you are most likely covered, but it’s smart to check the specifics.

Employers are required to provide health insurance for full-time, permanent employees, although the start of coverage can be deferred for a period of time, sometimes up to six months. And, with the cost of healthcare skyrocketing, more and more employers will be looking for ways to avoid footing the bill, including hiring more part-time or contract employees.

If you are going to be unemployed for a period of time, or your employer-sponsored coverage doesn’t kick in immediately, you’ll want to research a COBRA policy. These plans, required by federal law, allow you to purchase health insurance for up to 36 months that excludes existing medical conditions when you are removed from your parents’ or a previous employers’ plan.

Unfortunately, COBRA plans are expensive, often costing between $200 and $500 a month. If you are healthy, purchasing individual coverage will be cheaper. An individual health insurance policy with a high deductible may cost lost than $100 a month.

Compare plans and rates now using eHealthInsurance.

Are you uninsured? Or have you purchased your own health insurance before? Leave a comment!

Published or updated on May 7, 2008

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About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.


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  1. Tanner Alers says:

    Fully agree with blogger. At last a writter has got the cojonies to tell it like it is.

  2. “Employers are required to provide health insurance for full-time, permanent employees, although the start of coverage can be deferred for a period of time, sometimes up to six months.”

    As an FYI, this is not acutally true in most US states/localities. There are many rules employers must follow IF they offer health insurance, but there are few places where they legally MUST offer it in the first place… though for employers above a certain size, not offering it would be pretty rare.

    I would also remind people that if you are eligible for insurance through your employer, you may have only a limited time after hire to sign up, or else have to wait until the next open enrollment or a life change that meets certain criteria. Make sure that you understand enrollment deadlines for employer-based coverage.

    Excellent and informative article!

  3. Angelica says:

    YES!! I tell everyone that is young and working that they need insurance. Last year, I was unemployed but thankfully my dh bought some private insurance for me. It was only $180/month but the deductible was high $2500/yr with 80/20 coinsurance. Of course, when this was purchased, we assumed I was a healthy 28 yr old. I was DIAGNOSED with cancer 7 months later! Had to undergo 3 surgeries, chemo, and radiation. Had I not had insurance, I would have been in major debt. I was able to stay in the same policy but just change the plan to an HSA compatible $1500/yr deductible with 100% covered after that and did not have to go through medical underwriting again.

    I am very thankful that I had the insurance and its ironic because I always used to think insurance was a waste of money. Heck, I was a healthy 28 yr old wasn’t I?

    So now I urge young people to make sure they have some kind of coverage even if it has a high deductible. God bless.

  4. That’s important notice! We have in Canada mainly public health insurance, but I encourage young people to take additional health insurance (I am dealing mainly Life insurance in Canada, but health insurance too), which covers side care (dentists, drugs…). I believe importance of health insurance is even more important when you are young – if something happens (accident, illness – justanything), you have to deal with big debts then. And you have no career, no property, nothing to solve it in your twenties.

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