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As the Class of 2014 graduates from Arizona colleges this month, many new degree-holders will take time to look for work in their chosen field, consider pursuing a higher degree or ponder their next move. Whichever path they choose, one of those important steps should include evaluating whether they will experience any gaps in health coverage during this time period.
With some students choosing to start college later and take more time earning their degree, graduates should consider their health coverage situation as soon as possible. A birthday (turning 26) can make students ineligible for their parents’ health plans, as can the end of the school term, if they purchased coverage through a college-contracted provider, or changing residences between counties.
“Life-changing events” such as these can trigger a 60-day special enrollment period (SEP), during which time some consumers may be eligible to get health coverage through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace. Circumstances that can prompt an SEP include, but are not limited to:
* Loss of insurance coverage for reasons other than nonpayment (i.e., aging out of parents’ plan, parents retiring or becoming Medicare-eligible);
* No longer being eligible for student plans purchased through a college institution;
* Moving from one county to another, even if staying in Arizona, as providers vary between regions across the state;
* Job loss; or
* Change in life status, such as getting married, divorced or having a baby.
“New graduates already have so much on their plates: thinking about their new career and being faced with many choices; however, they need to make shopping for health coverage a priority,” said Cheryl O’Donnell, Arizona state director for Enroll America. “Students already have student loan and other debt to manage once they leave college. The last thing they need is to be uninsured and with a big hospital bill should they need to seek emergency medical care for any reason.”
Medical debt is one of the main contributors to financial hardship and a leading cause of bankruptcy.
Graduates who are unsure about whether they need to shop for a plan can get free, professional assistance by dialing 2-1-1 and visiting the Health Insurance Marketplace online for more details.
“As students look ahead to life after college, taking time to get informed about health insurance options can make a huge difference,” said Diane E. Brown, executive director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund. “With the facts and solid information, young adults can navigate the new health care landscape and make the right coverage decisions for now and after college.”
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