On your parents’ health insurance? One more reason to use birth control.

Good to know: if you're insured as a "dependent," you may not be covered for pregnancy.

UPDATE: President Biden has opened the enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act health insurance plans for 2022. You can now enroll in one of these plans until January 15, 2022, at healthcare.gov. Some states have their own open enrollment periods and websites for signing up. Check to see if your state does. We also have more information about how to get insurance and learn what kinds of plans to watch out for.

You’ve probably noticed that we’re fans of the Affordable Care Act—mostly for all it does to make it easier and more affordable for people with insurance to use the birth control that’s best for them.

We’ve talked less about our other favorite feature of the ACA, which allows young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance plan for longer. Before the ACA, young adults could be kicked off of their parents’ insurance as soon as they turned 18. The ACA extended dependent coverage up to age 26, meaning that if you’re 25 or younger, you can stay on your parents’ plan even if you’re married, not living with your parents, or eligible to enroll in your own employer’s plan.

Unfortunately, one major short-coming of dependent coverage is that it often doesn’t cover pregnancy. Thanks to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, employers with 15 or more people on staff have to provide maternity coverage for employees and their spouses, but the law doesn’t require the same for employees’ dependent daughters. And while this potential stumbling block is nothing new, it will likely affect a much larger proportion of young women as more 20-somethings take advantage of those extra years on their parents’ health plan.

But it’s not all doom and gloom…

Offering prenatal and pregnancy-related care in any health insurance plan that covers twenty-something women should be a no-brainer—it makes sense from a health and an economic perspective. Here’s hoping the recent spotlight on this issue leads to changes in that department. In the meantime, there are a couple points on the bright side.

  • Depending on what state you live in, getting pregnant may make you eligible for Medicaid—even if you weren’t before.

  • When the state-run Affordable Insurance Exchanges are up and running in 2014, a young woman who wants to get pregnant will be able to get affordable insurance through the Exchange and won’t need to rely on being a dependent on her parents’ plan.

  • Before the ACA passed, women could be denied insurance coverage because of a “pre-existing condition” like a current or past pregnancy. Now, thanks to the ACA, pregnancy doesn’t affect your ability to purchase insurance.

  • Last, but definitely not least, for women still on their parents’ health insurance who aren’t trying to get pregnant, the ACA should make it easier than ever to get the birth control method they want and stick to it. Bonus: Methods like the IUD or the implant, which can have high up-front costs, should be completely covered without copay or deductible thanks to the new requirements.

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