How to get health insurance when you turn 26

When you turn 26, you probably won’t be able to remain on your parents’ health insurance plan.

Note: This blog post comes courtesy of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

When it comes to health insurance, turning 26 is a milestone. Up until your 26th birthday, you are eligible for coverage under an enrolled parent’s health insurance plan — even if you are married, not in school, or not living with them.

But once you turn 26, you age out and aren’t eligible for their plan anymore.

What are your options?

Enroll in job-based coverage. If you are employed, and your employer offers health benefits, you may qualify to enroll in health insurance through your employer.

  • Once you turn 26, you may be able to sign up for your job’s health insurance plan. Your birthday does not need to fall inside of the usual enrollment period.
  • Employers usually pay a portion of your premium or the amount paid to an insurer for coverage.

Buy an individual health plan through Washington’s Exchange. You can search for plans and see if you qualify for a subsidy at Washington Healthplanfinder.

  • These plans are independent of your employer, so you will have to pay the premium on your own. When you apply, you may qualify for subsidies based on your income.
  • If someone claims you as a tax dependent, you can buy a plan through the Washington Healthplanfinder, but you won’t qualify for savings based on your income.
  • During the application process, you will find out if you are eligible for Apple Health (Washington’s Medicaid program) or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). If you have limited income or are pregnant, you may qualify. These plans are administered by the Washington State Health Care Authority.

Student health plans. If you are under 30 and enrolled in school, you may be eligible for a student health plan. Contact your school’s health services department to explore this option.

How long do you have to enroll?

If you are on your parent’s employer-based plan, coverage usually lasts through the month of your 26th birthday. For example, if your birthday is on May 1, you’ll have coverage through May 31.

If you are on your parent’s Apple Health plan, coverage ends Dec. 31 during the year you turn 26 no matter when your birthdate is. If you want to enroll in your own Marketplace plan, you can do so during open enrollment (Nov. 1 — Jan. 15 every year).

What should I consider when choosing a plan?

Be careful! Some products aren’t health insurance and aren’t required to protect consumers in the same way as insurance. Health care sharing ministries (HCSMs), discount plans, or risk-sharing plans are not insurance products and consumer protection laws do not apply to these.

Washington Healthplanfinder has a page for browsing available plans. When looking for a plan, see if your provider is included in their network, if that’s important to you.



WA State Office of the Insurance Commissioner
Commissioner’s Eye on Insurance

Washington state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler regulates the insurance industry and protects insurance consumers.