Health Insurance Options After 26

July 11, 2016 : Teresa Shipley Feldhausen

When you turn 16, you can get a license. When you turn 18, you can vote or enlist in the military. When you turn 26, you need to get your own healthcare insurance coverage.

health insurance at 26

Common Questions for Health Insurance for 26 Year Olds

If you are newly 26 years old and have health insurance questions, we’re here to help you. Here are some common questions and answers to simplify things for you:

What’s the parents’ health insurance age limit?

You can stay under your parents’ health insurance coverage until you turn 26 years old. Once you turn 26 – starting on your actual birthday – the requirement to make adult coverage available no longer applies. However, some employers may continue to provide coverage through the end of the plan year in which a child turns 26.

What are my health insurance options?

You have a lot of health insurance options. If you will lose coverage through your parents, you qualify for a special enrollment period to buy coverage through a state or federal marketplace. Your special enrollment period will begin 60 days before your birthday and last for 60 days after you lose your parents’ coverage.

If you’ve enrolled in a plan before your 26th birthday, your coverage can start as soon as the first day of the month you lost coverage. If you sign up for health care for after your birthday, during the special enrollment period, coverage can start as early as the first day of the month after you pick a plan.

Of course, you may also be able to obtain health coverage through your employer through a special enrollment period or an open enrollment period, or you may be eligible to elect COBRA coverage.

How much does health insurance cost at 26?

 The cost of your health insurance depends on factors including location, age, desired level of coverage, deductible amount, and other conditions.

What if I decide not to have any health coverage after I turn 26?

Previous to 2018, if you weren’t insured, you had to pay a healthcare penalty for being uninsured (unless you qualifed for an exemption). As of 2020, this is no longer the case.

But, from an emergency preparedness standpoint, it’s important to get at least minimum healthcare coverage in case you unexpectedly break an arm or get sick. Even a short visit to urgent care can add up to thousands of dollars out-of-pocket without insurance.

You should find health coverage on or before your 26th birthday.

I’m not 26, but I’m married. Do I have to get my own health insurance plan?

If you are under 26, and meet any qualifications through your parents’ insurance provider, you can join or stay on a parent’s plan even if you are:

  • Married
  • Not living with your parents
  • Attending school
  • Not financially dependent on your parents
  • Eligible to enroll in your employer’s plan

What does healthcare coverage have to do with taxes?

The Affordable Care Act made things more complicated when it comes to reporting coverage on your taxes. While you won’t incur a penalty for not having health insurance, you may still receive an 1095-B or 1095-C from your health plan or employer reporting information about your healthcare coverage.

Get tax help

Need help navigating healthcare tax reporting requirements? Let H&R Block help. With many ways to file your taxes, we’ve got you covered.

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Teresa Shipley Feldhausen

Guest Contributor

Teresa is a health and science reporter living in Washington, D.C. She has been a researcher for National Geographic Magazine, a writer and blogger for the Student Conservation Association and a reporter for Idaho newspapers.

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