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Graduates: Know Your Health Insurance Options

Congratulations, class of 2015! You've got your diploma, and you're headed out into the world to start your life as an adult. Well done. If you've...

Congratulations, class of 2015! You've got your diploma, and you're headed out into the world to start your life as an adult. Well done. If you've already lined up a job, with health insurance, doubly well done! But if not, don't worry. And don't assume you have to go without coverage. You have options.

1. You can stay on your parents' health insurance until you're 26. If you've been on your parent's insurance through college and they don't mind keeping you on, lucky you! If you'd already been dropped from their coverage and carried your school's health plan, your parents can re-enroll you during their plans' open enrollment periods. You don't have to be a dependent or living at home (phew!) to take advantage of this.

2. You can buy your own health insurance plan on HealthSource RI. And you don't necessarily have to wait for the open enrollment period. HealthSource RI counts graduating from college, and even completing your volunteer program with AmeriCorps or VISTA, as events that qualify for a "special enrollment period." If you went to school elsewhere and you're just moving back to Rhode Island (perhaps into the bedroom your parents have already converted to a craft room), that qualifies too. If you're low income (hello! who isn't low income upon graduating from college, except those with trust funds?), you may qualify for some subsidies to help pay for your coverage. That could be a big help, because some of the plans on the state's health insurance marketplace have high deductibles. A deductible is the amount of money you pay out of pocket toward the cost of your care until your insurance kicks in (although many preventative services are covered for free).

3. You might qualify for Medicaid. If you make less than 133% of the federal poverty level (that's $15,654 for a single person), you may be eligible. And because Rhode Island is a Medicaid expansion state, you don't have to married or pregnant to enroll. If you've been hearing news of cuts to Medicaid, have no fear: those cuts don't affect who can get coverage, or the benefits that are covered. Be forewarned, though, that most private psychiatrists don't take Medicaid. But there are many good community mental health options.

4. If you really, really don't want health insurance, consider, at the very least, a catastrophic health plan. If you're under 30 years old, you can buy one of these plans that basically protects you from being presented with a huge bill for a serious accident or illness. But here's the catch: they have high deductibles, meaning you'll have to pay for a lot of your own care - thousands of dollars - before anything is covered.

5. If you do land a job, with health benefits, bravo. Not sure which one to pick? Unclear about what a deductible is? Need someone to explain co-insurance? Want to know whether it's better to stay on your parents' plan? Check out the fantastic explainers and other resources from the Kaiser Family Foundation here.

6. Don't forget your teeth! Health insurance plans for adults do not have to offer dental coverage. But it's usually pretty cheap, and it's often offered as an option when shopping for health plans. You'll be so happy you have it if you need major dental work. After all those sugary energy drinks you guzzled for all-nighters, you might need it!

Graduates: Know Your Health Insurance Options
Graduates: Know Your Health Insurance Options