Health and Behavior

You and the Affordable Care Act

by Jan Gillis ('07)

Photo of JMU Associate Professor David Cockley, teaching a class

SUMMARY: Choosing a health plan isn't easy, but the Affordable Care Act is designed to make it easier for young adults to obtain coverage.

By Jordan Bogner ('15)

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JMU professor David Cockley teaching class

Choosing a health plan isn’t easy, but the Affordable Care Act is designed to make it easier for young adults to obtain coverage.

“The concept of the Affordable Care Act is to get as many people as possible under the tent, and young people are an important part of that,” says David Cockley, associate professor of health sciences, who teaches a course on ACA. Before the Affordable Care Act, privately insured young adults were more than twice as likely as older adults to lose their insurance coverage in the course of a year, often because they aged off of their parent’s plan, graduated from school or changed jobs. Now, most health plans that cover children must make coverage available to children up to age 26, even if they are married, not living with their parents, attending school, not financially dependent on their parents, or eligible to enroll in their employer’s plan.

JMU professor David Cockley teaching class

Once you age off of parental insurance, here are some things to remember:

  • On your 26th birthday, you now qualify for a special enrollment period that lets you enroll in a health plan outside of the open enrollment period.

  • The special enrollment period ends 60 days after your birthday.

  • If you don’t enroll in health coverage before this date, you may have to pay a fee and may not be able to get coverage until the next open enrollment period.

  • If you enroll before your 26th birthday, coverage can start as soon the first day of the month you lose coverage. If you enroll during the 60 days after your birthday, coverage can start the first day of the month after you have picked a plan.

  • Lastly, you can get local help with completing your application on When choosing a plan, the Health Insurance Marketplace may not resolve all of your anxieties, Cockley says, but it does list what providers are available in your state and break down your insurance options.

Published: Sunday, August 23, 2015

Last Updated: Thursday, May 17, 2018

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