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I have a 22-year-old daughter without health insurance. She is a part-time college student and works for an employer who does not offer health insurance. I work full time at a hospital and have coverage through my employer, and my employer also offers dependent coverage. I've heard that with the new health care law, my daughter will be able to enroll in my employer-based insurance and stay on the plan until she turns 26.  Is that true and when would this take effect?

Yes, it’s true that your daughter will be able to receive coverage under your insurance plan until her 26th birthday because of the new health reform law. This protection for your daughter will take effect whenever your health plan year starts again after September 23, 2010. So, if your plan year (when you might be able to pick a different plan, when any deductibles your plan has start over again, etc.) starts in October, that is when your daughter can receive coverage under your plan. Some plan years will start later, such as in January, so the protection will go into effect at different times for different people. And, some families may already be experiencing the benefit of this new protection because some health plans volunteered to start enrolling young adults in their parents’ coverage earlier.

Under health reform, your daughter and other young people like her will be guaranteed coverage on their parents’ plans until they are 26, whether their parents purchase their health coverage on their own or receive it through a job. If young adults have already dropped off of their parents’ plans, they will have a special opportunity to rejoin once the new plan year begins. Young adults are eligible even if they are married (although their spouses don’t have a guaranteed right to join) or if they live in a different state than their parents.

In addition, young adults don’t have to be financially dependent on their parents or be students in order to be eligible. They can stay on their parents’ plans if they don’t have an offer of coverage from their own jobs. If they do have a job that offers health insurance, but still want to stay on their parents’ plan, they should check with their parents’ employer or health plan about the rules. Some health plans have to allow young adults to stay on their parents’ plans as dependents until age 26 even if they have their own jobs with an offer of coverage, and some do not. Finally, young adults staying on their parents’ plans, whether their parents purchase them on their own or get them through an employer, can’t be charged any more for coverage than other dependents (such as younger children).

This new protection for young adults is one of many in the health reform law that take effect for plan years starting on or after September 23, 2010. To read about more protections coming into effect soon, visit this health reform timeline available on www.healthcare.gov. To learn more about the protection allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ plans, see the Families USA factsheet, Health Coverage for Young Adults: Health Reform Will Soon Allow You to Stay on Your Parent’s Health Plan.

Claire McAndrew is a Health Policy Analyst at Families USA, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization striving to achieve quality, affordable health coverage for all Americans. For more information, visit www.familiesusa.org.


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