Health care reform sends students back to insurance-policy nest

Nearly 2 million young adults nationwide will be able to return to their parents’ health insurance policies until age 26 by September 2010.

After 14 months of passionate arguments across party lines, the federal government signed the Patient Protection and Affordability Act into law March 30. The act formalized
President Barack Obama’s effort to extend affordable health care coverage to all Americans by insuring roughly 32 million Americans. 

In Oregon, there are about 60,000 students who are eligible to move back onto their parents’ plans. Young adults qualify for this extension as long as they do not have access to insurance through their employer. However, this only applies if they are college student. 

“I think this legislation is an intelligent way to cover a group that’s often looked over,” Wu said.

The new federal law provides a minimum form of dependent coverage for all states. Before the reform, states such as Alabama, California and Hawaii, did not have state laws requiring extended dependent coverage to young adults.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius will create a standard definition for “dependent” to eliminate inconsistencies among states based on tax status or residency.

Graduating students who are covered by the school health insurance plan should check with the school to determine if coverage ends after graduation or continues until the next calendar year.

In order to provide coverage for dependents, employees will have to share part of the premium with the employer, who is paying the rest.

However, this law does not include expansions for dental and vision benefits. Instead, the insurance companies and states will determine eligibility and the degree of coverage.

“No piece of legislation solves all problems,” Wu said. “This will move young people ahead significantly.”

The act marks a significant milestone in the health care overhaul, as 95 percent of Americans will now have access to affordable coverage.

Since 1912, beginning with Theodore Roosevelt’s Progressive Agenda, presidents have fought for more comprehensive health care coverage.

“It’s been a longtime coming,” Wu said.

The federal government will require all people to obtain minimal health care coverage by 2014.

The act will limit the cost of premiums and cost-sharing for those people who earn wages less than four times of the federal poverty line. The act also improves employee responsibility provisions by removing debilitating stipulations, such as the 60- and 90-day waiting period.

“I do think that 50 years from now, this legislative effort will stand alongside the GI Bill in importance, and people will wonder why America was the last industrial country to do this,” Wu said.

For small businesses providing coverage, the act requires states to establish an American Health Benefit Exchange to assist them.

By 2014, the act will extend Medicaid coverage to qualifying low-income individuals under 65 years old. The law also removed lifetime caps, meaning a policy will not be canceled simply because someone requires expensive medical treatment.

By September, the new law will stop insurance companies from rejecting children for coverage simply because of pre-existing conditions.

Wu said that the legislation is perhaps more important to the 200 million Americans who already have coverage because they do not have to worry about their families going bankrupt for pre-existing conditions.

“A lot of people say, ‘I would change my job, but I can’t because my son has diabetes,’” Wu said. “Taking away that uncertainty is important.”

For more information about how the act affects current students and young adults in general, visit

This is the first part in a three-part series regarding the new health care legislation. Next week will focus on effects on students.

Chelsea Langevin
Senior reporter Chelsea Langevin can be reached at

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