Dear Lucy: I’m an MIT sophomore. Last year, and this year again, I waived the MIT Extended Plan coverage, because I could be covered under my father’s health insurance plan. But my father just got laid off, and he’s losing his health insurance at the end of the month. I know I can get the Extended Plan next fall if he doesn’t get a new job by then, but what should I do in the meantime? Do you have any suggestions for me? —Uncovered
Dear Uncovered: Lucy is very sorry to hear that your father was laid off; that’s a very difficult thing for a family to experience. But the good news is that you absolutely do not need to go without insurance. Losing your current health insurance coverage—because your parent lost a job, or because you turn 26 and are no longer eligible to be covered under your parent’s plan, or because you’ve lost eligibility for another reason—is a “qualifying event” that makes you immediately eligible to enroll in the Extended Plan, or another health insurance plan, outside of the normal enrollment period.
The concept of a “qualifying event” is an important one, because you are likely to encounter other types of qualifying events during your post-college life. These include changes to your household, like getting married or having a baby, and changes in residence, like moving to a different state or country. When one of these events happens in your life, you will either be able to buy new insurance coverage or make relevant changes to your existing coverage.
Of course, there are a few caveats: The first is that you need to act within 60 days of losing your previous insurance coverage. So, in your case, if you are going to lose coverage through your dad’s plan on May 31, for example, you’ll have 60 days from that date to submit a Petition to Add Extended Plan coverage. You will also be required to submit documentation of the qualifying event. In your case, that would be a letter from the insurer stating that your insurance coverage has been terminated and giving the effective date.
Lucy wishes your father the best of luck in his job search. She hopes this answers your question and gives you one less thing to worry about at a stressful time. —Lucy