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(By Tricia Brooks, Georgetown University Center for Children and Families)

Last week my son turned in his final paper and defended his senior thesis, his last acts as a college senior. In a few short weeks, he’ll join the 3 million young adults graduating from college this year. Fortunately, this year’s crop of grads (and their parents) will have one less thing to worry about as they transition to work or further education: health insurance. Thanks to health reform and advocacy efforts by the White House and HHS, many major insurers have announced they will voluntarily allow adult children to stay on their parents’ health plan earlier than is required by the new health reform law.

Continuing access to their family’s health plan for young adults – the age group with the highest uninsured rates – is one of the significant early wins in health reform for children and families. As of September 23, 2010, all new or renewing plans will be required to cover young adults up to the age of 26 as dependents regardless of their student status (unless they are eligible for employer-sponsored health insurance). About two-thirds of the states had previously taken similar action but the individual state laws did not apply to large group and self-insured plans governed by federal regulations. These states often excluded young adults who were married or did not live at home.

Until March 30, 2010, those continuing dependent benefits provided through state laws had also been subject to federal tax causing additional administrative work on the part of employers and incurring tax liability on the part of families who were able to continue coverage for their young adult children. Health reform has taken care of this problem as well by making these benefits tax-exempt. The tax exemption also applies to qualified medical expenditures under flexible spending accounts for adult children.

Luckily, my son has a job that will provide health insurance. But I am relieved he has something to fall back on should he experience a gap in employment or decide to tackle graduate school. And I’m thrilled to see tangible and early results from the new health reform law in improving access to health coverage for children and families.

Jake's GraduationJake\'s Graduation

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