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Seattle Refined intern Jordan Blaine sat down with a health insurance navigator to discuss "Adulting 101" and how to enroll in health insurance.

5 sneaky things that could ruin your finances in your 20s

In your 20s, living your best life means getting and staying healthy. But what about your financial health? Turns out, health and wealth are linked, and making the right health moves can protect your financial future. Case in point: Medical debt is the country’s leading cause of bankruptcy. Avoid these all-too-common health pitfalls, and you’ll protect your health and your wallet for years to come. Here’s how:

Mistake 1: Ignoring insurance.

You’re young. You’re healthy. So why do you need health insurance? Because without coverage, accidents and illnesses can derail your goals. In Washington state, a 3-day hospital stay can cost $30,000, and fixing a broken leg can cost $35,000. Ouch, indeed. Protecting your financial health costs less that you might think; of the 250,000 Washington state residents ages 26-34 who used Washington Healthplanfinder to enroll in health coverage for 2018, more than 85 percent qualified for financial help with insurance premiums. That means they paid less (or nothing at all) for access to preventative care, screenings, pregnancy and reproductive healthcare, mental health coverage, and more.

Mistake 2: Skipping preventative healthcare.

There’s a reason wellness checkups are called preventative care—an annual once-over by a medical pro can help prevent an expensive ER visit or a costly chronic illness. At an annual exam, you can get seasonal vaccines like a flu shot, immunizations needed for travel or work, breast exams, reproductive healthcare, and other vital screenings. You can also get advice on managing stress, sleep, and your diet from an actual flesh-and-blood healthcare provider, instead of the Internet. Health insurance plans available at Washington Healthplanfinder include preventative care to keep you going strong.

Mistake 3: Avoiding the dentist.

Sooner or later, everyone gets a toothache or a chipped chopper. Without dental insurance, an unplanned dental expense can cost thousands. But too many young adults skip dental care of financial concerns. Little known fact: You can add dental coverage to low-cost health insurance plans available through Washington state residents who enroll in a Qualified Health Plan can opt for dental coverage and choose which household members to cover; all insurance plans for children 18 and under include dental coverage.

Mistake 4: Missing the “26-year-old window.”

The Affordable Care Act lets you stay on your parents’ insurance until age 26, but then what? To avoid potentially spendy gaps in coverage, you’ll need to sign up for a new health plan before your birthday. If you’re turning 26 in the next year, make sure to pick up a new plan the month before you blow out your birthday candles to make sure your new coverage starts before your parental coverage ends. (Turning 26 is a “qualifying life event,” which means you can sign up for health coverage outside of the annual enrollment period.)

Mistake 5: Slacking on self-care.

Keeping yourself healthy—aka “adulting”—means taking care of both physical and emotional needs. Many insurance plans at include access to mental health coverage, treatment for addiction and substance abuse, coverage for massage and chiropractic, and alternative medical care like acupuncture, to keep your mind, body, and spirit in balance.

Whatever your goals, Washington Healthplanfinder has a plan to keep you on track in 2019 and beyond. Sign up during open enrollment, November 1 through December 15, 2018. Navigators and brokers can help you find the right plan at no cost to you. Download the WAPlanfinder mobile app to get in touch with one in your neighborhood, or contact Customer Support at 1-855-923-4633 for live customer support.