Happy 26th Birthday

My birthday is usually my favorite day of the whole year. I love planning parties and bringing my closest friends and family together for a happy occasion. But on this upcoming birthday, there was only one thing on my mind: my health insurance.

I was about to turn 26, and I was full of panic about losing my parents’ insurance coverage. You see, 26 is the age the Affordable Care Act (ACA) deemed appropriate for dependents to get off their parents’ or guardians’ “family” health plans. This, of course led me down a deep dark spiral, “26 is closer to 30 than it is to 20. Should I be married by now? Have I been saving enough? Am I a fully-fledged adult person?” In all seriousness, I wanted to face my panic about my healthcare head-on and do as much as I could to make informative decisions, and take responsibility for myself.

So naturally, the first thing I did was turn to my mom. I was still on the right side of 30, after all! I turned to my parents first to try to get a sense of what my options were. My mom explained that I would have to talk to my employer, a small business of around 20, to see what the process looked like and initiate that conversation.

Next step: employer. They send me a massive packet of 30+ pages to look through on my own, with little guidance and no handholding, which is standard. I read through it with no understanding of what was what, and I didn’t feel like I had someone who could walk me through it. It was difficult for me to decipher this foreign language and to understand the various hypothetical scenarios I would need to be prepared for, given my medical history.

Next step: back to mom. My employer needed a letter from my mother’s employer, stating that I would no longer be on her insurance. Now, my mom works at a very bureaucratic company, ironically in the healthcare space, and I knew this would not be easy. My mom called her company and went through various hoops to get this letter.

I was also concerned that the quality of my coverage would be less than what I was used to once I transitioned off of my mom’s. Luckily, someone at my company did help me navigate that big packet – to the best of her ability – and I was finally able to somewhat understand what I was getting.

For the first time last month, I used my new insurance card when I went to pick up a new prescription. I was terrified that they would charge me $800 for this prescription. Luckily, the bill was reasonable. But my strategy of crossing my fingers and praying definitely is not.

Open enrollment for your health insurance is right around the corner. Now is the time to ask your parents, HR department, broker, or anyone else the questions you have. Because besides for Special Enrollment Periods (SPEs), you only have a small window to get the coverage you need.

I’m telling you all of this because all things considered, I have it pretty good. I went from one insurance plan to another, both through reputable companies, and yet I am still extremely anxious about my coverage and feel largely uneducated about my benefits options. I can only imagine how others must feel, especially during this tumultuous time, if, despite my privilege, I still have these feelings. And to all of those 25-year-olds out there, get started early with these conversations.

Though I had my mom and my colleagues help me navigate this, I wish I had had a dedicated expert, I could turn to who could give me credible advice. On my next birthday, that might just be what I wish for.

 Written by: Ashley Kearns, Social Media Manager, BoardroomPR