Friday, October 23, 2009

New grads may lose health coverage for summer

Several in Pennsylvania announced they would allow graduating students to remain on their parents' plans. That includes Blue Cross Blue Shield carriers, Aetna and United Health.

But the devil is in the details.

At Pittsburgh-based Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, the extension of coverage only applies for parents with individual policies with the insurer.

For a large majority of families — with Highmark group insurance through their employer — graduates will be covered only if the employer decides to cover the gap, according to Aaron Billger, spokesman for Highmark.

So many parents will be hoping their employer decides to keep the children on their policies for the summer.

"Some health-insurance companies have made a business decision to keep the graduates covered," said Melissa Fox, deputy press officer for the Pennsylvania Insurance Department. "It will be less paperwork and less of a hassle than dropping them and putting them back on when the federal law takes effect.

"And, one would think," she said, "that it would be a good decision for an employer, for employee morale, to keep the graduates on. But, of course, that's a decision they will be making."

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield is the largest nonprofit insurer in the state, with 3 million members. It made the offer to extend coverage this week along with the other 38 Blue Cross Blue Shield Association members in the country.

Local college students start graduating as early as May 1, so some parents already are busy looking for individual health insurance. New graduates, even those lucky enough to find jobs, often don't have health coverage for the first few months.

Individual health-insurance coverage for a college graduate can cost from $50 to $300 a month, depending on deductibles, co-pays, co-insurance for hospitalization, prescription coverage and a student's medical condition.

Under state law, employers have the discretion to keep adult dependent children on their parents' health care plan until age 29.

But most local employers cut dependents off at age 23 to 25.

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