New health reforms kick in for young

A doctor examines a patient at a hospital.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: New provisions take effect today that are part of the massive health insurance reform package passed back in March. Young people will experience some of the biggest changes. And Marketplace's Gregory Warner is with us live from our health desk desk at WHYY in Philadelphia to walk us through. Good morning, Gregory.

GREGORY WARNER: Good morning, Steve.

CHIOTAKIS: So what changes today for young people and their
health benefits?

WARNER: Well, starting today for new health plans -- or for the rest of us January 1st or when we renew our plans -- the maximum age you can keep your children on your policy goes up from age 19 to age 26. Listeners might be familiar with state versions of these plans that have a lot of restrictions. But those are gone. So, for the under 26ers out there, you can sign up on your folks' plan even if you're not a student, even if they're married and even if you live far, far away in another state. Two other laws that go into effect today -- lifetime dollar caps on coverage are abolished and health plans have to guarantee coverage for children regardless of a medical condition.

CHIOTAKIS: But I can image the insurance industry isn't taking that lying down, right?

WARNER: Oh, right. Especially that last one. Guaranteeing coverage -- insurance companies definitely don't like that. They say it'll encourage parents to run out and buy those policies after their kids get sick, which is a losing deal. So this week we saw several big insurers -- Anthem Blue Cross, Aetna, others -- announce that they will no longer sell child only policies as of today. And so today marks this shift. After today, going forward we're going to see over two million adults under age 26 get access to insurance through their parents' plan while some kids are going to lose that access.

CHIOTAKIS: So you're talking about two million. That's a lot of people suddenly getting insurance, Gregory. I mean, tell me about the costs for the rest of us.

WARNER: Right. Well, businesses will definitely pay more in premiums, but not much more because it turns out that millions of healthy young kids are pretty cheap to insure. It's estimated that this will raise premiums by maybe a half or 1 percent. And one survey of CEOs that I saw found that most companies did not plan to pass on those costs to workers. But that two million number -- it's just a concept. It's one thing to offer eligibility, it's a whole other thing to get young adults to sign up. I know when I graduated college, I was uninsured for a long while. I didn't really think it was that big a deal, you know? Everybody I knew was uninsured at that point.

CHIOTAKIS: Yeah, me too.

WARNER: So that's the thing, right? It's this big question mark around health care reform, which is can millions of healthy people be convinced to see insurance as a necessity worth paying a few bucks for?

CHIOTAKIS: Marketplace's Gregory Warner explaining it from Philadelphia from our health desk at WHYY. Gregory, thanks.

WARNER: Thanks a lot Steve.

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