Can a person taking a break from college get health insurance?
January 19, 2008 3:41 PM   Subscribe

Health insurance for someone taking a break from college? My girlfriend is taking a few months off from college and so won't be eligible for her parents' health insurance. She doesn't have a job that provides benefits, either. She's in her early 20s and is pretty healthy, but has really awful luck when it comes to random health issues popping up and so it would be a good idea for her to have insurance in the next few months. She's off her parents' policy in the next week or two. What can she do? Would COBRA apply in this case? What other temporary insurance providers are there?
posted by Braeog to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Where are you? In California, Kaiser Permanente offers some *relatively* affordable rates for young and healthy people. I think Blue Cross also offers some individual plans but they have a high deductable/copay. Think of it as the insurance that you'll want if you are hit by a bus, but no good for getting that boil lanced on your arse.
posted by 45moore45 at 3:46 PM on January 19, 2008

Response by poster: We're in Maryland.
posted by Braeog at 3:49 PM on January 19, 2008

What she wants is short term health insurance. The policies are fairly cheap and are usually limited to 6 or 12 months. The underwriting is less stringent than regular policies (since they don't have to worry about costly chronic and long-term health problems) and she can get approved in a matter of days.
posted by stefanie at 4:15 PM on January 19, 2008

I was in a similar situation after graduating from college and being unemployed. I was eligible for COBRA, but short-term health insurance was cheaper, probably because I was young and healthy. Under COBRA I would have had to pay the group rate for my mom's employer.
posted by Dec One at 4:47 PM on January 19, 2008

the Kaiser steps program is pretty good, my wife was on it for a couple of years before we got married.

Along with the short term programs you can usually add a rider for a major medical.
posted by iamabot at 5:21 PM on January 19, 2008

Are you sure she will lose eligibility for her parent's coverage? Some health insurance plans will cover dependents to age 22 or 23, whether they are full-time students or not. "Dependent" status may be fairly loosely defined. Often the health plan will refer to IRS dependency rules for the determination. She should read her parent's health insurance policy or certificate carefully, and call the plan if there's any doubt.

Yes, COBRA continuation of her parent's coverage will be available unless her parent is an employee of a church-related organization, the Federal government, or an employer of less than 20 people. She is guaranteed coverage for up to 36 months in this circumstance. Here's a pretty good summary in a pdf brochure from the Department of Labor.

The COBRA plan will almost certainly provide better coverage than short-term health insurance. The drawback is the cost: 102% of the full (employer and employee) group cost.

An advantage of COBRA is that she has 60 days from her loss of eligibility to pay the initial premium and receive coverage. (Her parents are responsible for notifying the plan of her loss of eligibility.) That gives her plenty of time to explore other options.
posted by Snerd at 6:40 PM on January 19, 2008

If her income is limited, there's always public insurance.
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:36 PM on January 19, 2008

You could also see if she is eligible, without a degree, to join her school's alumni association. Many alumni assoc's have health care plans at very reasonable cost.
posted by nax at 7:57 AM on January 20, 2008

Depends on the states as for access to affordable insurance, but ditto what Snerd said about COBRA eligbility.

She should also check to make sure she for sure will be dropped from her parents' insurance. If she enrolled but dropped during the semester, she might still be able to stay on it.
posted by fructose at 8:49 AM on January 20, 2008

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