Sebelius: Insurers To Meet Health Requirement Early
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning. College seniors may struggle to find a job this spring, but they are getting a graduation present from the health insurance industry. They will be permitted to remain on their parent's health insurance plans. NPR's Julie Rovner has the story.
JULIE ROVNER: The rules of most health insurance policies are this: Your adult child can stay on your policy only if he or she is a full-time student. So when they graduate, their health insurance goes away. Among the people it happened to is Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and her two children.
Secretary KATHLEEN SEBELIUS (Department of Health and Human Services): We went through this when both of them got out of school and were not headed for jobs where there was health insurance involved.
ROVNER: That won't happen anymore under the new health law. Young adults can stay on their parents' plans regardless of student status, until age 26. But it doesn't take effect until September. That left a several-month gap for this year's graduates. So Sebelius decided to see if she could do something about it.
Sec. SEBELIUS: We began a little outreach to just see if there was some appetite in really closing this gap. And frankly, companies thought that it was a good idea.
ROVNER: So yesterday, WellPoint Inc., which covers 33 million people, and United Healthcare, which covers 24 million, both announced they'd start covering most young adults sooner. For United, that coverage begins, essentially, right away. WellPoint will begin June 1st. But that will pick up anyone who graduates in May, since coverage always lasts 'til the end of the month.
Bradley Fluegel, chief strategy officer for WellPoint, says accelerating the coverage simply makes good business sense.
Mr. BRADLEY FLUEGEL (WellPoint): It seemed not really in our members' interests to disenroll them, only to have them re-enroll three months later. That seems overly complicated. So it just seemed to make sense to just let them stay on.
ROVNER: And Richard Collins, of United, says young adults are generally cheap to insure, so why would insurers want to let them go?
Mr. RICHARD COLLINS (United Healthcare): This population does not always avail itself of the opportunities to have health insurance in the market that - there are. And we would like to cover more of them.
ROVNER: HHS Secretary Sebelius says she's optimistic that more insurers will soon follow the two big companies' lead.
Julie Rovner, NPR News, Washington.