Health care reform moved forward this week when the White House issued rules on an early provision: allowing children to remain on their parents’ insurance plan up till age 26.
Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of Health & Human Services (HHS), has spearheaded the administration’s reform effort. At her urging, health insurers have agreed to continue coverage for many young adults ahead of the provision’s start date.
WebMD spoke to Sebelius about the young adult coverage and her work on reform.
Q: Why is the administration pushing up the timetable to allow children to remain on their parents’ health plan until age 26?
A: For a lot of the graduates this year, there would be a gap in coverage. Kids would graduate in May, lose their family insurance coverage, and then have the opportunity to be re-insured in September [when the reform provision would begin], and that seemed to be an unnecessary glitch.
So I reached out to the major insurance companies, and the good news is we have about 65 companies, as well as large employers, stepping up and saying they agree that gap makes no sense. And they’ll actually open up the plans early to try to make sure that kids who have coverage right now can continue that coverage.
There clearly are people who have lost their coverage who are eligible after September, and there will be an open enrollment period so those young adults can re-enroll in their parents’ plans. But for the kids who are currently covered, it just seemed that this might be a great way to work together and make sure there wasn’t several months’ gap in insurance coverage, and all the costs that go with disenrolling somebody and then trying to reach out and re-enroll them.
Q: You’ve said this was an issue in your own family, correct?
A: Absolutely. I have two sons -- one finished college in 2003 and one finished in 2006, and neither of them went into jobs where there was health insurance provided. We found ourselves doing what a lot of families do, which is celebrating graduation but at the same time trying to figure out what kind of insurance coverage we could get for our kids, because they were no longer eligible for family coverage. So I know personally what kind of relief this is.
And in both of those graduating years for my kids, the economy was actually in better shape than it is now. A lot of the young 20s either don’t have jobs at all, or if they have jobs, those jobs are less likely to have health benefits, so I think this is an additional piece of stability for a lot of American families.