Health Insurance

What is “Obamacare” and why should I care about it?

Medical care is expensive, and most people cannot afford to independently pay for doctor and hospital services they need. Many Americans rely on health insurance sponsored by employers or schools, subsidized programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, or individual policies to help control those costs. In the past, however, people with pre-existing disabilities and chronic health conditions were turned away from commercial insurance coverage.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, sometimes called “Obamacare,” was enacted in 2010 to increase the quality and affordability of medical care and to extend insurance coverage to more Americans. Under Obamacare, all insurance policies are required to cover people who have pre-existing conditions and were unable to get insurance previously, and to provide maternity benefits and well-child care for their insureds. The law also requires insurance companies to offer coverage to young people under their parents’ insurance until the age of 26, a great benefit to young adults.

While individual health coverage is no longer required or penalized after 2019, it is still a smart decision to have health insurance and it may be more affordable than you think. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, broadens eligibility for health coverage through the “Marketplace,” provides additional savings for many plans, and may allow for increased tax credits for most people.

How do I get health insurance coverage?

If you are covered now under your parents’ insurance, you may want to remain on their policy until you reach age 26, or at least until you are working and have employer sponsored coverage. If you are in school and no longer on your parents’ insurance, you may decide to enroll in the student health insurance plans offered by most schools. If none of these options are available for you, then you may still find an affordable health insurance plan that you can purchase individually. The Marketplace provides a list of available plans after you apply, with a breakdown of what plans have less expensive monthly premiums and lower deductibles, and even identifies “Catastrophic” health plans that provide low-cost coverage for worst-case scenarios. The Marketplace application also can help determine if you qualify for subsidized programs based on your income level, such as Medicaid, or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), if you are under the age of 19 and meet the CHIP eligibility requirements. To find out more information, what subsidies you may qualify for, and the different types of policies that are available to you, visit the Marketplace website at

So You’re 18 is presented by the Virginia State Bar Conference of Local and Specialty Bar Associations.
For print copies of So You're 18 contact (804) 775-0521 or [email protected].