Everything Millennials Need to Know About Their Health Care in 2013

ByChristina Postolowski

We all have a friend without health insurance (or maybe we’re that friend). Mine has more than one advanced degree and two jobs — but in this economy, she doesn’t think she can afford health insurance. She also drives a motorcycle. (Yeah, she's kind of a badass.) We both wonder how she would pay for the medical bills if she ever got into a motorcycle accident.

By now, almost everyone has heard about “Obamacare,” also known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA). If you’re young, there are several provisions of the ACA that will affect how you access and pay for health care. Whether you currently have health insurance or are uninsured, a student or on your parent’s plan, here’s how the ACA could affect you in 2013 and beyond.

1) What if I already have health insurance?

If you already have health insurance you like, congratulations! You’re good to go. Starting October 1, 2013, you will also be able to shop for and compare health plans like you do plane flights on Expedia. (Yeah I know, way easier.) More details below.

2) What if I’m uninsured?

You’re not alone — young adults are more likely to lack health insurance than any other age group. But this year the ACA will provide new, cheaper options for getting covered.

Starting October 1, 2013, you’ll be able to sign up for insurance through online Exchanges. As previously mentioned, these will look like Expedia.com for health insurance. You’ll be able to compare the cost and benefits of different plans side by side and pick the plan that’s right for you.

Still not sure you’ll be able to afford insurance? Beginning January 1, 2014, if you make around $11,000 to $45,000 a year and don’t have access to affordable coverage, you can get a tax credit to help you buy insurance on an Exchange. The tax credits will apply immediately, so you won’t have to wait until tax time to see a reduction in your insurance costs. They will also be refundable, meaning you can receive them even if you pay little or no income tax. (Also in 2014, young adults who make less than about $15,000 a year will also be able to enroll in Medicaid in many states.)

Starting January 1, 2014, everyone will be required to get some kind of insurance or pay a tax penalty — though they are not required to do so if they can’t find an affordable option. Luckily, the 2014 provisions will go into effect to make insurance more affordable.

Think you won’t be able to get coverage because of a pre-existing condition? As of September 2010, health plans cannot deny coverage to individuals under age 19 with a pre-existing condition. In 2014, this prohibition on pre-ex denials will apply to everyone.

3) What if I’m a student?

If you’re a student, you may be covered under a student health insurance plan (SHIP). SHIPs have already gotten a lot better thanks to the ACA, because the same basic protections that apply to other plans now apply to SHIPs too. For example, SHIPs must now cover preventive services without a co-pay, including immunization vaccines, depression screenings, alcohol abuse screenings, and sexually transmitted infection (STI) counseling. SHIPs will continue to improve in 2013. Right now, most SHIPs must cover contraceptives with no co-pays, and starting in 2013, all will have to.

If you are not covered by a student plan, but are under age 26, you may be able to join your parent’s plan (if you haven’t already). If your parent’s plan offers dependent coverage, you can enroll in that plan even if you are married or a student and regardless of whether you are living with or financially dependent on your parents.

What’s next? If you will soon be graduating from school or turning 26, start exploring your options for insurance. You can check out our “Friends with Benefits” toolkit here.   

If you don’t have insurance, now is the time to educate yourself about your options. Don’t forget, open enrollment on the Exchanges starts October 1, 2013 — find out more information on Healthcare.gov and make sure you’re ready to enroll!