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Dear Insurance Adviser,

If someone wants to obtain health insurance coverage via Medicaid but is currently under a parent’s plan, what is the first step? Do you drop your existing insurance first to apply for Medicaid, or do you apply for Medicaid while you still have the other coverage?

— Heather

Dear Heather,

Under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, you can legally stay on a parent’s policy to age 26. You don’t have to be living at home to qualify. I definitely would not drop that coverage until new coverage is nailed down.

If you are turning 26 now and that’s the reason for the change, you will have an open enrollment period for obtaining your own policy. If your income is small enough, you can qualify for Medicaid by applying for insurance online through the health insurance exchange for your state. And even if you don’t qualify for Medicaid, the exchange might show that you are eligible for a significant amount of help with health insurance premiums.

If you are not yet age 26 but your parents want you off their policy for whatever reason, they should wait until late in the year, when Obamacare has an open enrollment period.

Medicaid rules and eligibility are set by each state. So, depending on which state we’re talking about, you may be able to apply for Medicaid directly, without going through an exchange.

I hope this helps. Good luck.

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