April 29, 2010

Graduating from parents’ health care

Under the recent health care reform bill, insurers are required to allow people to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until they turn 26.

For senior Sara Belger, being able to stay on her parents’ plan means more freedom to plan her future.

“It means I don’t have to compromise my options strictly because of health care,” she said. “Taking a year and simply working…while preparing for the GRE and grad school is more of a possibility because I won’t have to worry about getting sick and the effect it might have.”

However, the legislation does not go into effect until the fall, creating a worrisome gap for many students.

“It scares me that I might not have insurance come the summer,” said senior Tasha Coryell. “I’ve never been without insurance.”

Currently, almost all health insurers end coverage once a student graduates from college. This means that students graduating in the coming weeks, like Coryell, will lose their coverage until September 23, the deadline set by the legislation for insurers to change their policies.

“I worry I’ll get sick. I wonder what I’ll do about things like dentist appointments,” Coryell said. “There’s a lot to worry about.”

To alleviate students’ concerns, some insurers are working to implement the provision earlier. WellPoint and United Healthcare, the two largest insurers in the country, will begin allowing the uninsured to stay on their parents’ plans on June 1.

“The fact that I have an automatic option for health insurance really just means that it is one less constraining factor on my future decisions,” said Belger.

According to a press release, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has sent a letter to other insurers encouraging them to follow WellPoint’s and United Healthcare’s examples.

“The letter follows productive discussion with insurers…about closing the gap in coverage for…young adults whose birthday in 2010 made them ineligible to continue on their parents’ plans,” said Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Residents of Illinois have been able to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26 since June 2009, provided they are not married. Still, loopholes in this law do exist and many students go without coverage.

Getting insurers to enact health care reform before the September 23 deadline would help ensure that college graduates would be able to pursue jobs and graduate school with fewer money worries.

“Expanding the opportunity for younger Americans to get insurance coverage is a top priority for the [Obama] Administration,” Sebelius said.

Anna Meier

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