June 01, 2010

Parents can soon keep children up to age 26 on their health insurance

Missouri insurers implement reform early for graduates

Jefferson City - Under the new federal health care reform law, Missourians will soon be able to keep adult children up to age 26 on their health insurance policy. While this requirement doesn't take effect until this fall, the Missouri Department of Insurance says at least seven major health insurance companies in Missouri have announced they'll implement the change sooner.

UnitedHealthcare, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Aetna, Cigna, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City, Coventry and Humana will allow adult children to stay on parents' policies before the federal deadline. These companies hold approximately 66 percent of the licensed health insurance market in Missouri.

"These major health insurers are making this change so that 2010 college graduates won't lose their health coverage after leaving school," said Insurance Director John M. Huff. "I commend these companies for going beyond what's required in the new law to help Missouri parents and young adults."

Particulars of the new age 26 benefit:

  • Insurers that offer dependent coverage must cover adult children until their 26th birthday, even if the young adult no longer lives with his or her parents, is not a dependent on a parent's tax return, is no longer a student or is married. Coverage does not have to be offered to the adult child's spouse or children.
  • Coverage to the adult child must include all of the benefits available to younger dependents and at the same price.
  • The requirement takes effect for "policy years" beginning Sept. 23 or later. That means parents can get their adult children covered during open enrollment periods after that date. Parents will have a 30-day open enrollment period to make this change.
  • The new policy applies only to health insurance plans that offer dependent coverage in the first place: while most insurers and employer-sponsored plans offer dependent coverage, there is no requirement to do so.
  • The federal government estimates 20,000 adult children in Missouri will now qualify for coverage under their parents' policies.

Consumers with questions should contact their employer, health insurance plan, the Department of Insurance Consumer Hotline at 1-800-726-7390 or visit insurance.mo.gov.