New law extends health coverage for some

The arrival of graduation can bring significant changes in a college student’s life. Though often exciting, the transition from college to the “real world” can, at times, be overwhelming.

One issue that seems perpetually to frustrate students as they prepare for the end of their college careers is postgraduation health insurance.

Jesse Poppe, a broadcast journalism major who graduates this spring, knows that feeling all too well.

2008 Insurance plan changes

Family health insurance plans under state regulation that are offered, sold, issued or renewed after Jan. 1, 2008 must extend coverage to unmarried children under the age of 25, even if those children are not full-time students.* *This change is not applicable to self-insured health plans.

“I can’t really assume that the first job I get is going to cover me,” said Poppe, who is currently covered as a dependent on his parent’s health insurance plan, adding that kind of uncertainty made him “nervous.”

But a new state law that took effect earlier this month could prevent some grads from worrying about health coverage for several more years.

During the 2007 legislative session, Sen. Linda Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis, sponsored the legislation, which is included in the omnibus health and human services finance law, in the Minnesota Senate.

“We’ve been trying to get more people insured,” Berglin said. “It looked like this (was) something that we could do to help with that younger age group.”

The change Berglin helped to enact affects family health insurance plans that are state regulated. In the past, unmarried students under age 25 were only covered if they maintained a full-time student status. The new law extends coverage for unmarried dependents up to age 25, regardless of whether they are enrolled in school.

But even Berglin admits the new requirement has its drawbacks.

“The law doesn’t really encompass self-insured,” Berglin said, adding that that leaves out a large number of insured Minnesotans. The University of Minnesota Student Health Benefit Plan is one such example of a self-insured plan that is not subject to the legislation.

In the area of self-insurance, federal law pre-empts the state, Berglin said, drastically limiting regulation at the state level.

Still, Berglin said self-insured plans always have the option of adopting similar practices.

“We hope that some of the self-insured will follow suit,” she said.

Nonpartisan Senate counsel Katie Cavanor, who works at the Capitol, said the statewide impact of the legislation could be significant.

In terms of the number of insured Minnesotans, “this will increase that by 51,000,” Cavanor said.

Part-time students and graduates who are under 25 and on a state-regulated plan are two groups that could be affected by the change, she said.

Cavanor did point out that state employees on the State Employees Insurance Program are not covered under the new law.

Susann Jackson, director of student health benefits at Boynton Health Service, said she couldn’t say at this point how many University students would be affected by the legislation, but added, “We don’t have that many students with adult dependence Ö there’d be a few, but not many.”