Some health care reform provisions began Thursday

Young people can now be covered by their parents’ insurance until age 26.

by James Nord

A series of federal health care reform provisions, including some aimed at significantly increasing coverage for students and young adults, takes effect Thursday.
 The provisions, included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, allow people to remain on their parent’s health insurance plan up to the age of 26 and prevent insurance companies from denying coverage for children younger than 19 because of pre-existing medical conditions.
Severe asthma is one example of a pre-existing or chronic medical condition that could forfeit coverage, said Elizabeth Lukanen, deputy director of the State Health Access Reform Evaluation.
Under the provisions, this would no longer be the case if the family signed onto a new plan.
“There really are a lot of benefits in the Affordable Care Act that young adults and students should be aware of,” said Cristal Thomas, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regional director.
Thomas, whose region includes Minnesota, said she hopes to see a reduction in the number of uninsured 19- to 26-year-olds.
In 2008, young adults age 19 to 29 were the least insured of any age group, according to a study sponsored by the University of Minnesota’s State Health Access Data Assistance Center (SHADAC).
Although some students have health care through a university-run system, the new provisions will allow a larger number of individuals access, Thomas said.
More than 11,000 young Minnesotans will now have access to their parent’s coverage, according to federal government data.
But some University of Minnesota experts aren’t as optimistic as the government.
States with higher-coverage age limits didn’t see a great spike in insured young people, according to the University-sponsored study, which was authored by Joel Cantor, a Rutgers University professor.
Instead, young people with personal insurance plans simply transfer to their parent’s coverage, said Lynn Blewett, a principal investigator at SHADAC. Although state initiatives haven’t diminished the number of uninsured young people, it has afforded those who’ve changed to their parent’s plans better health care at a cheaper price.
“[Increasing the coverage age] is not making a big dent in the uninsurance rate, so it’s hard to be optimistic, as much as I’d like to be,” Blewett said. “I think it’s the right move, it just seems to be making things better for a group that already has a certain amount of advantage.”
Other provisions that begin Thursday include free preventative care, such as mammograms and colonoscopies, and the ability to appeal insurance company coverage denials.