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Insurers Agree to Cover Young Adults Under Parents' Plans

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media, April 21, 2010

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Tuesday announced that three more health insurers—Kaiser Permanente, Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, and Humana—would be added to the list of those companies that will immediately continue health insurance coverage for young adults under the age of 26.

Two other plans—UnitedHealthcare and WellPoint—said this week that they would also provide the coverage earlier.

Their extension offer received praise from Sebelius, a frequent industry critic, who said she was "encouraged" by the companies' actions "to bridge the gap” between now when many young adults will soon graduate from college and Sept. 23 when the healthcare reform law requiring this coverage becomes effective.

HHS had sent a letter to all the major insurance companies earlier in the week offering to work with each of them to expand this coverage period. It said those under 26 who are not in college—but who reach an age disqualifying them for coverage under their parents' policy—"could be disenrolled when they reach that age, even though they have the right to be re enrolled as early as September 23, 2010."

In addition, "enabling young adults to remain on their parents' policies" has substantial benefits for all involved. "This action would enable young, overwhelmingly healthy people, who will not engender large healthcare costs, to stay in the insurance pool and retain important insurance coverage," the letter said.

WellPoint said it will allow young adults to stay on their parents' policies beginning June 1. WellPoint's affiliated plans will automatically retain these adults on their parents’ policies in both fully insured group and individual plans, the company said.

"We want students to graduate into a secure future, not the ranks of the uninsured, so we are working with employers to make sure these young adults have health coverage available to them ahead of the new requirements," said Gail Boudreaux, president of UnitedHealthcare, in a statement.


Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at jsimmons@healthleadersmedia.com.

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