DAVID GREENE, Host:
One of the early benefits of the country's new health law is letting young adults stay on their parents' health plans. But as with everything related to health care, the reality turns out to be a little more complicated than that simple description. NPR's Julie Rovner brings us the rest of the story.
JULIE ROVNER: Robin Byrne is one of the lucky ones. For her the new law is working exactly as its authors envisioned. The 22-year-old just graduated from Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania with a degree in economics and international affairs. She's off to do a Fulbright fellowship this fall, studying in Muscat, Oman. But between now and then she'll need health insurance.
M: I have asthma. I mean, very mild, but it does mean I have to buy inhalers. And they're not terribly expensive, but out of pocket they would certainly be more expensive than with our prescription coverage.
ROVNER: The good news is that her mother's health plan, which comes from a local government job in New Jersey, is going to continue to cover her both before and after her fellowship. Byrne says the security of knowing she'd be able to stay on her mom's plan gave her more freedom to pursue her career goals.
M: Knowing that I would be covered, I felt a little bit more comfortable applying to, not necessarily riskier programs, but programs that may or may not have extended health insurance, rather than just looking for traditional employment.
ROVNER: His mom, June Blender, said she was delighted when the provision letting young adults stay on their parents' health plans remained in the bill that was signed into law. But then she was disappointed when she learned that it doesn't take effect right away and that her employer, Microsoft, wasn't going to make it available to Jackson until the next open season for benefits this fall.
M: The open season begins in November. But he graduates on the 23rd of May, so there's a significant gap in his insurance.
ROVNER: And because Jackson, like Robin Byrne, has asthma, buying even temporary insurance on the open market probably isn't an option.
M: He definitely needs health insurance and we can't afford a seven month-or-something gap.
ROVNER: Paul Dennett is a senior vice president for health care at the American Benefits Council, a trade group for large employers.
M: For all of the Americans that have coverage through an employer - and that's about 160 million Americans - roughly two-thirds of that number are with a self-insured employer.
ROVNER: But Dennett says employers that decide to wait may be concerned about the requirement that they offer coverage to every young adult up to age 26, not just this year's graduating class.
M: The law will also apply to individuals who aren't on the plan right now, because they graduated a year or two ago, and lost coverage under their family's plan - or maybe never elected it at all - who will have that new opportunity to do so.
ROVNER: Julie Rovner, NPR News, Washington.
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