Report: Making Health Care Work

The Young Person's Guide to Health Insurance

For Graduating Seniors
Released by: Illinois PIRG Education Fund

For people in their late teens and twenties, getting health insurance can be a lot like a lottery . . .

If you’re lucky, your parents have a good plan that covers you while you are in school or your employer picks up the tab. If you’re not, your options shrink to two: a plan offering good coverage that you can’t afford, or a plan you can afford that covers little to nothing.

Starting this year, under the new health care law, young people will gain access to new, previously unavailable health insurance options. To make the most of those new choices, you need to learn the facts. This guide is designed to help you do that.

The provisions of the new federal health care law are designed to be phased in over several years, but here are two critical dates you need to know:

September 23, 2010:
Young people receive new consumer protections and benefits!

    • Stay on Your Parents’ Plan till 26: Insurance plans must start allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ plan until age 26.

    • No More Dropped Coverage: No insurer can drop your policy when you get sick because of paperwork errors. You will have the right to appeal any denial of care.

January 1, 2014:
Even bigger changes are on the way!

    • Pre-Existing Condition Denials Are Banned: Health insurance plans will no longer be able to deny coverage or hike your rates due to a pre-existing condition.

    • Gender Discrimination Becomes Illegal: The common insurance company practice of charging women more than men for coverage will be against the law.

    • You Can Get the Same Benefits as Members of Congress: Through new state-based health insurance markets called exchanges, millions of individuals and small businesses will pool their buying power and negotiate better deals with insurers, just like Congress and federal employees do today.

    • Coverage Gets a Lot More Affordable: If you’re having trouble affording coverage and earn less than $44,000 a year as a single person ($88,000 for a family of four), you will get a tax credit to help you pay the cost of coverage on the exchange.

    • But You’ll Have to Do Your Part: To keep health insurance premiums low, it helps if everyone pulls his or her weight and gets covered. Otherwise, only the sicker, more expensive individuals seek insurance. So, in 2014, all who can afford it must buy coverage. People under 30 can purchase a lower-cost, bare-bones plan.

For a complete timeline and outline of changes under the new law, go to



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