Best And Cheap Health Insurance for Young Adults in 2024

Becoming an adult comes with many new responsibilities. One is ensuring you take care of your health and well-being. An essential part of taking care of your health is having appropriate health insurance coverage. Many options are available and finding one to fit your needs in 2024 is important.

Key takeaways:

If you are struggling to sort through the mass of information on health insurance plans and options, read on to get an overview of what’s available and what will work best for you.


Why should young adults have health insurance?

Health insurance is a good idea even when you're young and healthy. Unforeseen accidents, injuries, and illnesses can cause substantial financial issues if you don't have appropriate coverage. Not having health insurance can limit your access to preventive care, such as routine physical exams, vaccinations, and treatment of minor illnesses. Neglecting your health when young can cause considerable future health issues.

Many reasonable and affordable options are available for young adults, and resources are available to assist you in finding the best coverage. If you are under the age of 26, you can stay on your parent’s plan. Students enrolled in college or university may have health insurance plans available to them, and many young adults qualify for Medicaid or CHIP programs. No matter your situation, finding the right health insurance plan is possible.

Health insurance options for adults under 26

Since the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), young adults have been given more options to obtain affordable health care. Depending on your current situation, several affordable options may be available. You can stay on your parent’s insurance plan until you turn 26, and it may not cost them more to keep you on their plan.

You can check the online healthcare marketplace to determine if you qualify for CHIP or Medicaid. If you don’t qualify for those programs, the marketplace can show you other options. Many students can get a student health insurance plan through their school. If you are employed, your employer may offer a health insurance option. Short-term and catastrophic plans are available in many states for young adults and teenagers under 26.

Staying on a parent’s plan

If your parents have health insurance through their employer or the marketplace, you are eligible to be a dependent on their plan until you turn 26. You can get on or stay on your parent’s plan even if you are no longer claimed as a dependent or live at home. You can even stay on their plan if you get married or have children. If you are on your parent’s plan through their employer, your coverage typically ends on your 26th birthday. If your parents have a marketplace plan, your coverage remains active until December 31st of the year you turn 26.


CHIP or Medicaid

Teenagers and young adults often qualify for income-based coverage through Medicaid or CHIP. CHIP is for uninsured children and teenagers whose household income is too high to qualify for Medicaid. Although Medicaid rules differ in every state, in most states, you qualify if your income is less than $2,523 per month if you are single and $5,046 if you are married. In some states, the income requirement may not apply.

Student health insurance coverage

Most colleges and universities require a student to have health insurance upon admission. For those who can't show proof they're insured, the school will provide health insurance as part of the tuition. Some schools may offer affordable plan options.

Catastrophic plans

Catastrophic plans offer low monthly premiums, but high deductibles, meaning coverage does not usually apply unless you have a significant health event that results in substantial ER or hospital bills. If you are under 30, this is a good affordable option. If you do not need routine medical care, a catastrophic plan may be sufficient.

Health insurance options for young adults over 26

When you turn 26, you are no longer eligible to remain on your parent’s insurance plan. Many young adults in this category have graduated from college, which means student insurance is no longer an option. While there are some limits when you reach this age, there are still many good options to cover your healthcare needs.

Employer insurance

If you are working, you may be able to get health insurance through your employer. Companies have offered health insurance as an added benefit for years, but the ACA requires companies to offer health insurance to their employees to avoid heavy tax penalties. However, this does not apply to companies with less than 50 employees. Some employers will cover a portion or the entire cost of your monthly premium. In many cases, companies offer various options when you sign up for coverage. Some may offer lower premiums with higher deductibles, while others may provide more extensive coverage at a higher premium. When deciding on a plan, consider your specific healthcare needs.


State marketplace

If your employer does not offer health insurance, or you are self-employed, you can purchase a plan through your state’s healthcare marketplace. Insurance plans are available for purchase during the annual open enrollment, usually occurring from November through December or January, depending on where you live.

If you miss open enrollment, you may still be able to enroll for coverage. Individuals with a “life-changing” event can enroll outside open enrollment. Qualifying events include:

  • Job loss
  • Marriage or divorce
  • Adopting a child
  • Turning 26


Medicaid is an option if you meet the income requirements. In most states, you will qualify if your income is less than $2,523 per month if you are single or $5,046 if you are married. Medicaid is a federal program, but each state sets its own salary qualifications so be sure to check your state's website for the monthly salary requirement. Medicaid covers doctor visits, hospital stays, emergency treatment, and sometimes medication at little or no cost to you.

What are cheap and affordable insurance options for young adults?

Finding affordable health insurance is an important step when you enter adulthood. When you’re starting out, you may not be able to afford a plan with extensive coverage. However, many inexpensive plans have adequate coverage at reasonable rates.

You can check to see if you are eligible for Medicaid on your state’s marketplace or Medicaid website. It only takes a few minutes to find out if you qualify. If your income is too high to be eligible for Medicaid, you may qualify for insurance subsidies to help reduce the cost of your monthly premium. The healthcare marketplace will let you know what you are eligible for and show you the most affordable plans.

Short-term insurance may be the best option for you if you're in a transition period. These plans are usually very affordable and provide coverage for a specific period. A short-term plan works great if you are between graduation and employment or preparing for a move out of state.


The most affordable option may be to choose a low monthly premium plan through your employer. If your company pays some or all of your premium, be sure to take advantage of the added benefits.


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