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Q & A With Sarah Lueck on the New Health Insurance Option for Young Adults


Today, we sat down with Sarah Lueck, health policy analyst at the Center, to discuss a provision in the new health reform law that will start helping young adults this fall. 

Sarah, right now, many insurance companies and employers don’t cover young adults that are on their parent’s health plan once they turn 19 or if they fail to meet other criteria, such as being a full-time student or living with the parent. Tell us how this will change as a result of the new health reform law.

Starting this fall, insurers and employers that offer dependent coverage will have to allow parents to include children on their insurance plans up until their 26th birthday.

For parents who get insurance through an employer, young adults are generally eligible for coverage as long as they don’t have access to job-based coverage of their own.

The expansion of adult coverage is one of the first provisions of the new health reform law to take effect, and it’s great news for parents who worry about their children having coverage and for young adults who otherwise couldn’t get coverage.

You mentioned that this change will happen this fall. Is there a specific date that parents should keep in mind?

The law requires insurers to make this change for their new plan year that begins on or after September 23rd of this year.

So, if a parent’s employer sponsored plan starts with the calendar year on January 1st that’s when their insurer will have to make the change.

Many health insurers say they’ll implement the policy even sooner, which could allow some young adults – like new graduates – to keep coverage that they would otherwise lose.

Why is it important to give young adults access to this kind of health insurance?

Right now, young adults make up a disproportionate share of the nation’s uninsured. In fact, more than 10 million young adults between the ages of 19 and 26 lack health coverage according to an Urban Institute study. That’s one third of all young adults – a larger share than any other age group.

How many young adults will gain coverage as a result of this provision?

More than one million young adults will gain coverage through the new rule in 2011, according to government estimates. Slightly more than half of them will have been uninsured. The rest will primarily switch from coverage in the individual insurance market to their parent’s job-based coverage, which tends to be more comprehensive and affordable.

Where can listeners go to find more information about the new law?

On the Center’s website, they can check out the special health series called “Moving Forward with Health Reform.”