Experts Discuss Effects Of Youth Staying On Parents' Insurance Longer

This story was written by Allie Vasilakis, The Daily Free Press
Young adults into their mid 20s can see a doctor for their yearly check-ups and all the sniffles and sneezing in between on their parents' dime, thanks to a new state mandate allowing Massachusetts students to remain on their parents' health insurance policies longer than before.

Similar laws passed in 17 other states were created in an attempt to reduce the number of uninsured people between the ages of 19 and 24. Commonwealth Fund spokeswoman Mary Mahon said 13.3 million young people lacked health insurance coverage in 2005.

"Lack of coverage puts young adults' health and economic security at risk," she said.

In the past, children not enrolled in school could stay on their parents' insurance until they were 19 and students were covered until they were 23. The Massachusetts laws raise the cutoff age to 26 and include all children who do not have employer-based coverage.

America's Health Insurance Plan spokeswoman Susan Pisano said private insurance companies and state legislators have been investigating how to deal with increasing numbers of students taking more than four years to finish college and moving home after graduation, a trend first noticed by health insurance companies.

Council for Affordable Health Insurance state affairs director J.P. Wieske said state legislators want to give older children time to find their own insurance policies and prevent states from using unnecessary resources to cover them.

Wieske said legislators know a large percentage of the uninsured are between about 23 and 30 years old, and said raising the maximum age is a way to expand coverage.

However, Wieske said he thinks most families would agree their children are better off on their own policies. "By keeping them on these policies we're only delaying their purchase of health care, which is making the problem worse," he said.

Wieske said young adults who depend on their parents for insurance will raise the insurance costs and drive people away from individual insurance plans, which would be more expensive in the long run. Keeping grown children on group or family health plans makes individual plans more expensive, he said.

"It's probably long term better for people, especially for those who are in college, to get their own policy that they can keep," Wieske said.

He said the rates of individual options and plans older children have to choose from are often cheaper than full-coverage dependent rates of parents' policies.
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