Newsroom > Press Releases > eHealth Releases Its Top Ten Health Insurance Tips for 2015 College Grads

eHealth Releases Its Top Ten Health Insurance Tips for 2015 College Grads

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – May 12, 2015 – Today eHealth, Inc. (NASDAQ: EHTH – eHealthInsurance.com), the nation’s first and largest private online health insurance exchange, released tips to help this year’s college graduates understand their health insurance options outside of the Affordable Care Act’s nationwide open enrollment period.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) established annual open enrollment periods for consumers to purchase individual or family health insurance plans of their own through licensed agents, private online marketplaces, or government exchanges. Outside of an open enrollment period, consumers may be unable to purchase major medical health insurance unless they experience qualifying life events such as – but not limited to – marriage, the birth of a child, moving to a new area, or the loss of qualifying health insurance coverage.

The ACA’s next nationwide open enrollment period is not scheduled to begin until November 1, 2015. As such, unless they are able to retain coverage under an existing policy or unless they experience a qualifying life event allowing them to purchase coverage on their own, this year’s college grads could find themselves uninsured and uncertain of their coverage options.

Top Ten Health Insurance Tips for 2015 College Grads

  • Know a qualifying life event when you experience one. A qualifying life event allows you to purchase an Obamacare-compliant health insurance plan outside of open enrollment and apply for subsidies to help you pay your monthly premiums. Qualifying life events include things like marriage and divorce and the birth or adoption of a child. College graduation is not a qualifying event. However, losing Obamacare-compliant coverage that you received through school, a job, or your parents may be a qualifying life event. Moving to a new city or state may also be a qualifying life event. Work with a licensed agent like those at eHealth to learn if you’re eligible to enroll in an Obamacare-compliant plan when you graduate.

  • Review ALL your coverage options. College graduation is a good time to take stock of your life. Are you ready to start your career? Are you living in the city you want to live in? Is your current health insurance plan really the best choice for you? It’s time to re-examine your options, all of them. When it comes to health insurance, these may include purchasing coverage on your own, sticking with Mom and Dad’s plan, or enrolling in coverage through an employer, among others. If you don’t have coverage from a parent, employer, school, or other source, you should consider buying coverage on your own. Keep an open mind and review the coverage options available to you through a variety of sources.

  • Buying coverage on the cheap may cost more than you think – or can afford. Don’t pick your next health insurance plan based only on which one has the lowest monthly premium. Instead, look at the “maximum out-of-pocket” amount for any plan you’re considering. This is what you could potentially need to pay, in addition to your premiums, for covered medical care in a worst-case scenario (like a serious illness or an injury requiring hospitalization). A monthly premium of $150 (for example) might sound great until you realize that your maximum out-of-pocket cost would be $6,000! If the lowest-premium plan is all you can afford, consider buying an accident or critical illness plan on the side to help cover your out-of-pocket costs in a worst-case scenario.

  • Think twice before sticking with Mom and Dad’s health plan. The Affordable Care Act allows your parents to keep you on the family health insurance plan until you turn 26. That’s a pretty good deal. However, Mom and Dad aren’t required to keep you on their plan and it may cost them to do so. What’s more, if you live away from home, in another city or state, your access to network doctors and hospitals through your parents’ plan may be limited or non-existent. So, don’t automatically stick with your parent’s plan. Find out if there are other, better options available to you first.

  • Look beyond government exchanges. If you experience a qualifying life event and find yourself shopping for health insurance, don’t limit yourself to government-run health insurance exchanges. There are other plans available outside of government exchanges that can also meet your coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act. To find the plan that best meets your needs and budget, compare the options available through your government exchange with other options available through private online marketplaces like eHealth. Some private marketplaces can also help you apply for government subsidies if you qualify.

  • Consider short-term coverage for the in-between times. If you don’t expect employer-based health insurance to kick in for a while and you’re not eligible for (or can’t afford) coverage through another source, consider a short-term health insurance plan. Just make sure you understand what you’re buying. A short-term plan is a form of temporary coverage (from 30 days up to 12 months). It will not meet your coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act, meaning that you may still be subject to a tax penalty. Short-term plans also may not provide coverage for preventive care, pre-existing medical conditions, or prescription drugs. However, short-term plans are relatively inexpensive and may limit your financial risk for medical care received for unexpected illnesses or injuries that are covered.

  • Keep an eye open for the next open enrollment period. The next nationwide open enrollment period for self-purchased health insurance is coming up on November 1, 2015. If you’re not eligible to sign up for traditional major medical health insurance after graduation, this will be your chance to do so. Don’t let it pass you by. Even if you find major medical coverage after graduation, you should use the upcoming nationwide open enrollment period to make sure you’ll have the best plan for your needs into 2016.

  • Check your subsidy eligibility. If you experience a qualifying life event allowing you to enroll in coverage outside of open enrollment, find out if you qualify for a government subsidy to help you afford health insurance. In order to qualify, your projected income for 2015 can be no more than 400% of the federal poverty level, which is about $47,000 for a single person. Be aware, however, that unexpectedly earning more this year could mean that you end up having to pay back some or all of your subsidy dollars. To learn about your eligibility for a health insurance subsidy, work with a licensed agent or your state’s government exchange.

  • Consider a “catastrophic” health insurance plan. These are major medical plans intended primarily for people under age 30. They provide less coverage overall than typical health insurance plans but may be more affordable on a month-to-month basis. They’ll meet your coverage requirements under the health care reform law, but you can’t use government subsidies to help pay for them. Catastrophic plans might be a good choice if you can’t afford more robust coverage but want something to back you up in case of an emergency. Just be sure that you could pay your deductible if you had to.       

  • Understand your tax obligations if you go uninsured for 2015. Being uninsured the day after graduation doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically have to pay a tax penalty. Under the Affordable Care Act, tax penalties are typically triggered when you go uninsured for three consecutive months or more than once in the same calendar year. There are also exemptions for people with very low incomes or certain other circumstances. If you’re tempted to go uninsured after graduation, make sure you understand what your tax penalty may look like. For 2015, the tax penalty for going uninsured is the greater of $325 or 2% of your taxable income. Depending on how much you earn in 2015, your tax penalty for going uninsured could be hundreds of dollars or more.

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eHealth
eHealth, Inc. (NASDAQ: EHTH) owns eHealth.com, the nation's first and largest private health insurance exchange where individuals, families and small businesses can compare health insurance products from leading insurers side by side and purchase and enroll in coverage online. eHealth offers thousands of individual, family and small business health plans underwritten by many of the nation's leading health insurance companies. eHealth (through its subsidiaries) is licensed to sell health insurance in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. eHealth also offers educational resources and powerful online and pharmacy-based tools to help Medicare beneficiaries navigate Medicare health insurance options, choose the right plan and enroll in select plans online through PlanPrescriber.com (www.PlanPrescriber.com), eHealthMedicare.com (www.eHealthMedicare.com) and Medicare.com (www.Medicare.com).

For more health insurance news and information, visit the eHealth consumer blog: Get Smart - Get Covered or visit eHealth's Consumer Resource Center.