Unemployed after college without health insurance? Here's what to do

A friend who recently graduated from college explained his problem to me: He doesn't have a job and no longer qualifies for his parents' insurance plans.

So now, in addition to the difficulty of making student loan payments without any money, he doesn't have health insurance. Unfortunately, his situation is not rare: a report from the Commonwealth Fund found that 34% of college graduates spends some time without health insurance in the year after graduation -- a roll of the dice that puts a third of recent grads one medical emergency away from financial ruin at best and a a lack of access to needed health care at worstt.

But what can be done? Without a full-time job in most cases, students will have to cough up their own cash to get covered -- and without a full-time job, that's not so easy.

Licensed insurance counselor Bruce Finsilver suggests that recent grads check with their state about their eligibility for Medicaid, which varies from state to state. If that doesn't work, the next best bet may be high deductible plans, which are also known as catastrophic insurance policies. Finsilver told me in an email that these policies keep premiums down. "Many of these plans offer a limited number of doctor office visits that are not subject to the deductible," he added.

It's also worth checking with your alma mater to see if they have any words of wisdom about what to do now that they've taken all your parents' money, saddled you with debt, and you don't have a job and need health insurance. Some colleges have programs or resources for the alarming number of grads in this situation. Check out The Alumni Insurance Program to find out about your school's.

For dental needs, Jackie Rubin of the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine suggests that uninsured recent graduates may want to look into their local dental school's treatment center, where students are overseen by practicing dental faculty.

For further information and ideas, please call the Foundation For Health Coverage Education's toll-free "U.S. Uninsured Help Line" at 1-800-234-1317. And please, if you have a friend or child who's in this situation, forward this post to them now: the risks of being uninsured are too great to avoid the issue.

Zac Bissonnette's book College on a Dime will be published by Portfolio in the fall.
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