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Friday, April 23, 2010

Good news for young adults

Kate Blocher

Staff Writer

During my final weeks of college, I was too busy cramming for exams, writing endless papers, enjoying the spring weather, oh yes, and searching for a job to worry about my health insurance. But  my parents were certainly worrying about it, and I should have been too.

For many graduating seniors about to enter the job market, the chances of securing employment that offers full health benefits are slim. This means that once they graduate, they will no longer be covered by their parents' plan or their student health plan, and they will be left on their own to find-and somehow afford-coverage through the private market.

However, with the passage of health reform last month, graduating seniors can take the worry of losing their health coverage off their list. Beginning in September, young adults will be able to stay on their families' health plan until they turn 26. But what about those students graduating within the next few months?

Two of the largest health insurers in the United States, UnitedHealth Group and WellPoint Inc, announced on Monday that they will try to keep new graduates on their parents' policies before the September deadline.

UnitedHealth Group was the first to begin working with Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in order to move toward closing the coverage gap that would occur over the summer until the new provision takes effect. UnitedHealth Group will continue to offer coverage to students whose parents are fully insured through UnitedHealthcare. Gail Boudreaux, President of UnitedHealthcare said:

We want students to graduate into a secure future, not the ranks of the uninsured, so we are working with employers to make sure these young adults have health coverage available to them ahead of the new requirements[.]

WellPoint, Inc quickly followed UnitedHealth Group's announcement with one of their own stating that as of June 1, its group and individual fully insured plans will automatically keep young adults on their families' plan until the age of 26.  Bradley Fluegel, WellPoint's chief strategy and external affairs officer stated, "Protecting access to health benefits is our first priority."

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is keeping up the pressure on other insurers, in hopes that they will follow UnitedHealth Group and WellPoint, Inc's lead. Her department is working hard with other insurers, and she said:

...we are encouraged by the actions of WellPoint, UnitedHealthcare and other companies to bridge the gap between now and the fall when the law becomes effective.

Let's hope other insurance companies step up to the plate and follow UnitedHealth Group and WellPoint's example. They've got a lot of anxious college students counting on them.