New college grads wrestle with health insurance

by Lesley Politi on May 12, 2009

In the state of California, you can stay on your parents Health Insurance until age 23 as long as you are a full time student. The Health Insurance Carrier will ask for proof that you are a full time student throughout the time you turn 18 until 23.


Graduating senior Meredith Johnson’s wake-up call came when her University of Pittsburgh roommate realized she’d waited too long to schedule the dentist appointment to remove three impacted wisdom teeth. She couldn’t get in until after graduation, when she’d have a diploma but no health insurance.

“She said she didn’t know how to pay for it,” said Ms. Johnson, 22, who concedes she hadn’t given health insurance much thought before that.

Now, after moving back home to Lower Merion, Montgomery County, Ms. Johnson is working part-time as a waitress, a job with no benefits. When it comes to insurance, she admits, “I have a low-grade panic going.”

Carrie Potter, 21, who graduated from Point Park University Saturday, says she’s “horrified” at the prospect of having no job and no health insurance. She wants to work but says she may have to look at graduate school instead.

“I would do that only for the health insurance, which is a sad reality,” she said.

Down the street, meanwhile, soon-to-be graduated Emily Dearring, 23, plans to move home with her Mom in Columbus, Ohio, until her Art Institute of Pittsburgh degree helps her land a graphic design job. Needed dental work, which forces her to wear a retainer, will have to wait.

Graduation from college can mean the commencement of big worries anytime.

This year may be particularly tough because, while landing a good job maybe at the top of the graduates’ worry list, health insurance is close behind. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported last year that adults 19 to 29 have the highest uninsured rate of any age group.

Part of the reason is that the U.S. health-care system is based on insurance being provided by employers. In the best of times, entry-level jobs with insurance benefits are uncommon, and often coverage doesn’t kick in for a few months. This year is not the best of times.

When a group of Western Pennsylvania universities, colleges and community colleges held their annual job fair at the Pittsburgh Indoor Soccer Arena this spring, fewer than half the usual number of potential employers came.

“A lot of them were just talking to people. They weren’t there to hire anyone,” said Tony Linnan, co-director of career services at Slippery Rock University.

Preliminary results from a student survey earlier this month by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found 19 percent of undergraduate seniors who applied for work had a job lined up after graduation, compared with 25 percent a year ago.

The standard fallback position for new graduates has been to stay on their parents’ insurance, costly by itself, but that assumes parents still have their jobs. Even if that’s true, some graduates say they don’t want to be a continuing financial burden to their families.

“I want to be grown-up. I want to be on my own,” said Ms. Potter, who has three younger siblings still at home in Shaler.

What are the alternatives?

Point Park this year is offering short-term medical insurance for new graduates through Illinois-based Marsh CampusConnexions that allows its graduates to continue their school health coverage for 12 months, renewable for two additional years.

Monthly premiums are typically less than $150 plus a $500 deductible. The plan covers treatment for injuries including hospitalizations. Routine doctor visits are not covered.

Individual plans are another option for new graduates. Online insurance broker eHealthInsurance can connect local graduates with high-deductible ($5,000 to $10,000), low-premium ($35 to $55 per month) policies.

The Internet company also suggests graduates consider several factors, such as talking with an insurance agent if they have a pre-existing chronic condition, becoming familiar with insurance terminology and considering short-term insurance plans that typically last six months to buy time while job hunting.

Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Insurance Department’s adultBasic health plan for the uninsured, which covers routine doctors’ visits, hospitalizations and emergency room visits for accidents, has a waiting list of more than 200,000.

Those who meet income requirements and are on the waiting list can get the same coverage if they can pay on average a $330 monthly premium until a spot opens, said insurance department spokeswoman Rosanne Placey. Once in the program, monthly premiums average about $35.

Compared with COBRA payments, that may sound like a good deal. But it’s not something a new college grad necessarily wants to think about.

“It’s the adult stuff. It’s the stuff your parents do,” said Ms. Johnson. “It’s one of those things you’ll have to save for that’s not a fun thing. It’s not like saving for a car.”


More and more collage graduates find themselves in this exact poison. If you or anyone you know needs some quotes or advice on the best approach to finding the right plan for them please call or email,


Questions Please Call Politi Insurance Agents & Brokers


Leave a Comment

    Previous post:

    Next post: