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Young adult children and health care insurance

Question: I'm a widow with a 22 year old son that graduated from a UC school last June. Upon graduation my son had to find his own health insurance - he has yet to land a job with that benefit. I have heard that the age limit for children remaining on their parents health insurance plan (mine is a fairly generous one through my employer) has been raised to 26 and they don't have to be a student? Is this true and, if so, when can I approach my employer to have my son added back to the plan? Heidi, Lincoln, CA

Answer: I would approach your employer now with your question. You're absolutely right that all children up to the age of 26 are eligible for health insurance coverage through their parents plan so long as they don't have access to an employer-provided plan.

It's a big deal since young adults make up a large percentage of the uninsured. For instance, a 2009 Commonwealth Fund survey found that 45% percent of those surveyed between the ages of 19 and 29 were uninsured for at least part of 2009.

Here's the thing: The change doesn't take effect until September 23 of this year and insurers don't have to offer the extended coverage until the beginning of a new plan year. So, the benefit might not be available to parents and their adult children until January 1, 2011 for those companies that run on a calendar year basis.

I say "might," however. A number of the largest insurance companies have said they'll make the plan shift well before the official deadlines and some companies recognize that it's a popular shift among their employees during these tough economic times.

I'd talk to human resources to find out what your company plans to do.

Here are two articles with nice explanations of the health insurance policy shift: The first is from Kaiser Health News and the other from USA Today.

About the author

Chris Farrell is the economics editor of Marketplace Money.
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Careful--some carriers are saying that a child is eligible only if they're already on the plan. That is, in Heidi's scenario, since her son graduated, and presumably left her plan, he therefore would be ineligible to be covered until age 26. Unfair, and doesn't seem to be in the spirit of the law, though following it to the letter.

Definitely talk to HR.

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