Think of the last time you bought a camera, laptop, or video game. You didn’t just stroll into Best Buy and purchase the first model you saw, right?
Unfortunately, many millennials are doing this — not with electronics, but with their health insurance. A new study by nonprofit FAIR Health found that only 19 percent of millennials compare the prices of health and dental insurance online before they buy. But compare that to the 59 percent of them who use the Internet to compare prices of consumer electronics, and 35 percent who price-check online for automobiles before they buy.
So why don’t millennials use the Internet for health care?
“Since many millennials are dealing with their own insurance for the first time, the new healthcare paradigm that requires more consumer engagement and cost sharing is the only model that many of them know,” says Robin Gelburd, president of FAIR Health. “It also may point to the need for more education about health insurance and reimbursement models for those new to the workforce and private insurance.”
So if you’re a millennial, here’s what you need to know about health insurance…
1. You are required to have it
Yup, just in case you missed the news hive swarming around the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, the individual mandate was ruled constitutional. That means if you can afford health insurance but choose not to buy it, you have to pay a fee. According to healthcare.gov, the fee for not having coverage in 2015 is $325 per person for the year, or 2 percent of your yearly household income.
2. But you can probably get it from your parents
If you’re 26 or younger, the Affordable Care Act allows you to stay on your parents’ private health insurance plan, even if you’re eligible for a health care plan of your own at work. Staying on your parents’ plan so can save you thousands of dollars in insurance premiums, depending on how old you are.
The Department of Health and Human Services has said that, between 2010 and 2012, when Obamacare was first rolled out, 3.1 million young adults between the ages of 19 and 25 gained health insurance by staying on their family’s plan.
3. Healthcare.gov is the best way to compare all the public plans available to you
Media outlets had a collective seizure when healthcare.gov, the much-maligned website for enrolling in Obamacare, was first rolled out in October of 2013. Infamously, the live-chat didn’t work and only 1 percent of the 3.7 million people who tried to register in the first week were able to enroll.
But since then, the website has vastly improved and has made shopping for health insurance much easier. First, go to the site and click on “Get Coverage.” Then click on “See Plans and Prices,” which will prompt you for your zip code. Next, they’ll ask for your household income and age, and whether you’re a smoker, parent, or pregnant. The results page will show you all of the insurance companies in your area where you’re eligible for coverage and breaks down how much you’ll pay per month and what your out-of-pocket costs will be for doctor visits, emergency room care, and generic drugs.
Once you’ve finished browsing all the plans and select one, you’ll need to start your Marketplace application, which is where you actually apply for the health insurance plan. Be sure to save your account information so you can come back and make any changes to your plan later on.
4. Be aware of these important deadlines
Nov. 1, 2015: Open enrollment begins. Beginning on this day, you can start shopping for a 2016 plan.
Jan. 1, 2016: First date your 2016 coverage can start.
Jan. 31, 2016: Open enrollment ends, and you are no longer eligible to sign up for health coverage.
Healthcare.gov notes that, if you’ve missed the open enrollment period for 2015, you may still be eligible to shop for a plan — if you recently got married, had a baby, are adopting a child, moving to a new residence, or losing other health coverage.
5. And most importantly, know what’s covered
When you’re reading through the plan comparisons, you need to know what you’re paying for. The premium is how much you’ll pay per month, while the deductible is the amount you’ll need to pay out-of-pocket before the insurance kicks in.
In most cases, as long as you’re young and healthy, it’s smarter to choose a plan with a low monthly premium. But you want to check to make sure your health insurance plan is a good fit for you; for instance, if you get sick easily, you’ll want to choose a plan with low or no co-pays for primary physician visits. If you require prescriptions often, pick a plan that with full drug coverage. Ladies, the full range of birth control forms, including the pill, the ring, diaphragms, and the IUD, are provided for no out-of-pocket costs, no matter which plan you choose.
The lesson here is that health insurance is not hard, or confusing, or expensive. Millennials, do your research — like you do for everything else — and get some health insurance. That way, if you get run over by a beer truck, you won’t get stuck with a nasty hospital bill in addition to your injuries.