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Reform helps young adults
The new federal health law allows qualified young adults to remain on their parents' policies

Date published: 5/26/2010


Young adults and their parents will be among the first to experience the changes brought by the new federal health care legislation.

The new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed by President Obama in March, requires private health insurance companies to extend dependent coverage to qualified young people until they are 26.

The change takes effect on or after Sept. 23, though many of the nation's major health insurance companies, including Anthem, Cigna and Aetna, have pushed forward the start date to next week.

"Excellent," said Aaron Richardson, a new graduate of the University of Mary Washington. "I guess the next three years are going to be a little less stressful."

Each spring many families like the Richardsons lose coverage for their adult children when the children age-out of the family's plan, or are no longer full-time students.

When that happens, the young people either go without insurance, or they purchase--often with their parents' help--individual policies or continuation coverage through the federal COBRA law.

Scott Hoffman, for example, was dropped from his parents' policy after graduating from UMW in December.

His parents, residents of New York, were able to carry him for an additional 90 days. Since then they have continued his coverage through COBRA for $500 a month.

Now young people can remain on their parents' group or non-group health plans if they don't have the chance to buy insurance from their own employers.

The new provision "increases the availability of health insurance to a population that currently has high uninsured rates," according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

While Richardson was at UMW, he was insured under the policy that his father purchases from Washington & Lee University in Lexington, where he works.

Richardson graduated this month and does not have a full-time job. He would have been dropped from his father's policy in July when he turned 23. Now, he said, his family will extend his coverage.

"With any luck I'll only need to be on his coverage for the next few months," Richardson said.

Kat Saunders, 22, also graduated from UMW this month and was dropped from her family's health plan soon after that.

"It's pretty brutal. There's no grace period," said Bob Saunders, her father.

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