Three Cheers for Dependent Coverage Expansion! – Say Ahhh! A Children’s Health Policy Blog

By Patrick Tigue, New
England Alliance for Children’s Health

While there are many provisions in the Affordable Care
Act (ACA) that will benefit children and families, the expansion of dependent coverage to children up to age 26 is among the most
important – especially in the short-term. In 2011 alone, as many as 1.64
million previously uninsured young adults are estimated to gain coverage under
their parents’ health plans. The provision takes effect after September 23,

Recently, the federal government issued regulations further explaining how this
provision will work. Here at the New England Alliance for Children’s Health, an initiative of Community Catalyst, we
support these regulations because they clarify several important points that
will benefit young adults and apply the law with their interests at heart:

  • Young adults are eligible for coverage under their
    parents’ plan regardless of what state they live in and whether they are tax
    dependent, financially independent, or a student, employed, or
  • Premiums or benefits cannot vary based on the age of a young adult
    who qualifies as a dependent.
  • The provision applies to all health plans and
    only grandfathered health plans (those in existence prior to March 23, 2010)
    can exclude young adults with access to an employer-sponsored plan until 2014.
    After 2014, this exception no longer applies.
  • Insurance companies must provide
    prominent notice to enrollees about the special enrollment period for
  • States have the option to extend dependent coverage beyond age 26.

All of these clarifications and others included in the
regulations will ensure that dependent children and their families can take
full advantage of this important opportunity to secure the health coverage they

While we are enthusiastic about the regulations, we’ve
also been working collaboratively with a group of our partners to offer some
suggestions to the federal government on how to improve them in a few key areas:

  • Clarify that stepchildren and adopted children are
    included in the definition of a dependent child.
  • Further explain the
    situations where grandfathered plans can remove young adults who are eligible
    for employer-sponsored insurance to ensure that this does not unduly burden
    young adults.
  • Require that prominent notice be clear and conspicuous–ideally
    in the form of a stand-alone document highlighting the availability of the new
    coverage option and how to enroll.

It’s our hope that the regulations will be revised soon
to reflect these suggestions, but in the meantime you can find out more about
the dependent coverage expansion here. This provision is one of the many
examples of the very real opportunities that ACA provides to extend coverage to
those who otherwise would go without.

This blog post was originally posted on the Health Policy
.  The views expressed by Guest Bloggers do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for Children and Families.

Editor’s Note:  CCF also submitted comments on the dependent coverage regulations which you can read here.  

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