About Amy Umble:
Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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Whew, it’s complicated

I thought I had learned my lesson, but apparently I hadn’t. Whenever I write about health insurance, I try to remember to include qualifiers in the story, because every insurer, every employer and every policy is different. That certainly was the case with a story, published this week and available here, on the federal law that extends dependent coverage for young adults to age 26. I included a couple of qualifiers, words like “qualified young people” and “on or about,” but not enough of them and perhaps not the right ones.

If I had it to do over, I would have included in the story a distinction between young people who are just graduating from college now and those who graduated last year and have been off their parents’ policies for a while. It appears that insurance companies like Anthem are treating them differently.

Anthem and other companies have offered to push up the start of the extension from September to June 1 for young people who are graduating now. But it looks like many of those who graduated last year will have to wait until the start of a new policy year, which could be in 2011.

I also would have distinguished between employers who purchase coverage from, say, Anthem and those who are self-insured and hire an insurance company to administer their plans. Anthem has agreed to move up the start date of the coverage  for the policies it sells, but that doesn’t mean that self-insured organizations, like the state of Virginia, will also agree to do it.

“Ultimately the decision on whether or not they want to implement it is up to them,” said Scott Golden, Anthem spokesman, referring to self-insured employers.

When state Sen. Edd Houck of Spotsylvania asked about this yesterday, Bill Eichelberger, a budget analyst with the Senate Finance Committee, replied:

“The requirement for coverage of young adults up to age 26 won’t be effective for the Commonwealth’s health benefits plan until July 1, 2011. The state could cover these individuals earlier, but the cost would be approximately $4 million per year. These funds are not in the program for the 2010-11 plan year.”

As you can see, it’s complicated.