Best Health Insurance for Young Adults | Parents’ Plan

The best health insurance choice for young adults is to stay on their parents’ plan for as long as possible. However, this strategy may fall apart once you reach the age of 26.

There are exceptions to every rule – and turning age 26 does not always mean that your coverage automatically expires right away – although it could.

Fortunately, loss of insurance is a qualifying life event. This enables you to obtain a new policy right away without gaps in coverage. You have a 120-day grace period centered on your birthday to take action.

How Long a Child Can Stay On Parents Insurance?

How long can a grown child stay on their parents’ health insurance? There is no single correct answer as there are exceptions such as plan type, state rules, exemptions for disabled dependents, and options to cancel coverage for freeloaders.

Fortunately, losing coverage by turning 26, getting married, and being a cheapskate are all qualifying life events. This means that you can enroll in something new right away. Get a quote now. You do not have to wait until the annual open enrollment.

Until 26

Parents are not required to keep their young adult children on health insurance until age 26. They have a choice to do so – even if you have a job or marry your sweetheart. Therefore, do not take the situation for granted.

Insurance companies charge more to cover dependents. In addition, employers often contribute less towards the premiums for family members other than the employee. These two factors combine to make it more expensive for parents to pay the premiums on behalf of their adult children.

  • Your parents can legally drop you from the plan during open enrollment
  • Consider contributing towards the cost to prevent this problem

After 26

As a young adult, you may be able to stay on your parent’s health insurance after age 26. If not, you have a 120-day grace period to buy a new policy. The length of time that you can continue coverage varies by plan type, the state where you live, and whether you have a disability.

Grace Period

Adult children have a 120-day grace period to enroll in an alternative policy if they cannot stay on their parents’ health insurance after age 26. The grace period begins 60 days before your birthday and ends 60 days after.

The grace period entitles you to purchase a new policy outside of the annual open enrollment period. Be sure to make changes during this time to avoid going without coverage.

Plan Type

The plan types are the first variable affecting how long after you turn age 26 you can stay on your parents’ health insurance. Your parents may have group coverage through work or an individual policy purchased through the government marketplace.

  • Individual coverage expires on your birthday
  • Group coverage could use one of three rules
    • Expires on your 26th birthday
    • Stops on the last day of the month of your birthday
    • Runs out on the last day of the calendar year when you turn 26

Contact the insurance company who issued the plan to verify which rule they follow.

State Rules

You may be able to extend your parents’ insurance coverage for several years after the age of 26 if you meet two sets of very distinctive criteria.[1]

  • You remain unmarried, reside in one of 6 states, or are a full-time student. Florida also requires that you have no dependent children of your own.
  • The policy was established in 1 of 6 states that extend dependent coverage past the age of 26. Many group plans follow the state laws in issuing state. Therefore, you may enjoy this benefit if your parent works for an employer based in one of these states – even if he or she lives or works elsewhere. Contact the insurance company to confirm.
StateDependent Age Limit
New Jersey31
New York30

Disabled Dependents

Many disabled adult children can stay on their parents’ insurance well past the age of 26. Most states have laws that require issuing companies to extend coverage for dependents who cannot support themselves through work.

The companies may require the legal guardian to submit medical evidence for the disability. Some states require this evidence within a number of days after the normal age-out period. Others require annual recertification.[2]


Young adult children can sometimes stay on the parents’ health insurance after marriage. The Affordable Care Act explicitly allows married dependents to remain covered up until age 26.

However, married couples lose the extension rights after age 26 in the six states noted above. Each state requires that the dependent be unmarried in order to continue with their parental coverage.

In addition, you cannot add your new spouse to your parents’ insurance. You do not want to begin married life with one person uncovered – especially if you want to start a family. Marriage is a qualifying life event, which means that you can purchase a new husband/wife policy right after your wedding.

Best Health Insurance for Young Adults

The best health insurance for young adults is sometimes their parents’ plan and other times an individual policy. As noted above, your options can change radically before and after your 26th birthday, or wedding. In addition, single people have unique needs, which can vary radically by gender.

Under 26

The best health insurance for young adults under 26 is often their parents’ plan – especially if they have younger siblings, or their employer contributes towards the cost.

  • Many group plans (and some individual) charge the same rate regardless of family size. For example, a parent with four children pays the same premium as another family with only one child. This affects the per person rate.
  • Many employers pay a large portion of the premium cost for the employee and his or her spouse and dependents. You may not be able to find a cheaper option without the employer contribution.

Young adults under the age of 26 without the parental option often find that high-deductible plans work best. The premiums are much lower – as are your chances of needing to use the coverage and incurring the out-of-pocket costs.

Single People

Asking how much is health insurance for a single person is less important than finding the plan design that best fits your needs. The monthly premiums are just one input. You also have to forecast the likely out-of-pocket cost for medical care.

  • Deductible
  • Coinsurance
  • Copayments
  • Out-of-network fees

For example, a healthy young single person would find an option with low premiums, a high deductible, and a skinny network most affordable overall. Meanwhile, a single person with chronic medical conditions might want a plan with low deductibles, and a larger network of participating providers – even though the premiums are higher.

Also, your gender could influence your decision.

Single Male

The best health insurance for a young single male adult might reflect his lifestyle. Men often avoid doctors like the plague but frequently engage in high-risk sporting activities that can lead to injury. They are invincible – almost.

  • A high deductible option would have the lowest premiums
  • Supplemental accident insurance could cover injury exposure

Single Female

The best health insurance for a young single female adult might reflect her unique needs. Women are the only gender to experience pregnancy first hand. Therefore, the ideal policy might address this possibility.

  • Prescription drug coverage would include birth control
  • Hospital indemnity insurance could address maternity exposure

Footnoted Sources:

[1] Zenefits Dependent Coverage Extension

[2] The Autism Community in Action