Legislature(2009 - 2010)BUTROVICH 205
03/11/2009 01:30 PM HEALTH & SOCIAL SERVICES
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SB 11-DEPENDENT HEALTH INSURANCE; AGE LIMIT CHAIR DAVIS announced consideration of SB 11. 1:33:34 PM TOM OBERMEYER, staff to Senator Davis, read the sponsor statement for SB 11 as follows: 1:34:00 PM SB 11 requires an insurer to enroll, and prohibits taking off the rolls or eliminating health care insurance coverage without the consent of the insured, for a person less than 26 years old who is related to the insured, unmarried, financially dependent on the insured, does not have dependents, enrolled in an institution of higher education, and not insured under another policy. SB 11 changes the age that a person is considered a child from 23 years of age to 26 for purposes of determining who may be insured under the same policy of health insurance. Young adults, ages 19-29, are one of the largest growing segments of the U.S. population without health insurance. In 2004 almost 14 million young adults lacked coverage, an increase of 2.5 million since 2000. This rapid change is due in part to their losing coverage under their parents' policies at 19, or Medicaid, or State Children's Health Insurance Program, or graduation from high school or college. Almost half of college graduates and high school graduates will be uninsured for a substantial time after graduation. Age 19 is a crucial year in health insurance coverage. Both public and private insurance plans treat this age as a turning point for insurance coverage. Even if youth go on to college, parents' insurance plans often stop before graduation. Almost all private universities and about one fourth of public universities require health insurance as a condition of enrollment. Forty percent of part-time students and non-students, and 20 percent of full-time students ages 19-23 are uninsured. Insurance coverage is important for this generally healthy group of young adults who should be encouraged to start taking responsibility for their own health care. It has been found that 14 percent of adults 18- 29 are obese, an increase of 70 percent in the 1990s, the fastest rate of increase among all adults. There are 3.5 million pregnancies each year among the 21 million women ages 19-29. One-third of all diagnoses of HIV are made among young adults. Emergency room visits are far more common among young adults than children or older adults. Most young adults have no regular doctor, no link to the health care system, and more than one-third of those who do require medical attention are often saddled with debt and collection agencies. States are taking action to mandate coverage for young adults, often allowing for targeted policy options. For example, in 2006 New Jersey required most group health plans to cover single adult dependents up to age 30. Massachusetts as part of its expanded health insurance law in 2006 considered dependents for insurance purposes up to age 25 or for two years after they are no longer claimed on their parents' tax returns. Since 1994 Utah has required coverage through age 26, and New Mexico provides coverage for unmarried dependents up to age 25, regardless of school enrollment. Texas in 2003 allowed full-time students up to be covered by their parents' insurance plans to age 25. It is not uncommon, or unreasonable, therefore, that Senate Bill 11 requires offering family health insurance coverage to dependent children up to age 26. 1:38:12 PM SENATOR DYSON said he had hoped someone from the insurance industry would testify and said he is glad that it is not Chair Davis's intention to move the bill today. CHAIR DAVIS said this bill has been heard before and thinks it would be quite helpful to the young people of this state; she intended to hold it to give people more opportunity to speak for or against it. SENATOR DYSON asked if the term "enrolled" in higher education has been defined for the purposes of this bill. CHAIR DAVIS replied that she believes a student has to be enrolled full time, which would mean at least 12 credits, but she will verify that. MR. OBERMEYER said that language on page 2, AS 21.42.345(e)(5) says the person must be enrolled "as a full-time student at an institution of higher education accredited by the regional or national accrediting agencies recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the U. S. Department of Education." The fiscal note indicates that the University of Alaska currently has 200 non-active dependents between the ages of 24 and 26 who would become re-eligible for health care insurance if this bill were to pass; the expected annual increase in cost to UA would be approximately $1.2 million. SENATOR DYSON admitted that he had not read that portion of the bill carefully. He wondered whether, if a kid enrolls and gets coverage and then quits school or flunks out, if a process is in place to let the insurer know the student is no longer eligible. 1:42:12 PM SENATOR THOMAS joined the meeting. CHAIR DAVIS responded that it depends on who your coverage is with; but in her experience the insurer will carry the student to the end of that school year, but will not renew coverage if the student does not enroll for the following school year. SENATOR DYSON said that he probably knows far more scoundrels than Senator Davis does, who are looking for a way to scam the system. MR. OBERMEYER remarked that the increased cost to continuing coverage for these children has not been very high. It was anticipated that if the parents want to keep their children on a health care plan, they could do so until age 26; this is a relatively healthy population group, so it hasn't greatly increased the cost to private insurers. He said he would try to get some figures from other states. SENATOR PASKVAN observed that this would help a person who is 18, joins the military for a few years, gets out and then wants to go back to school full time. 1:44:32 PM SENATOR DYSON added that will be true only if the person meets the criteria of being a dependent child. MR. OBERMEYER pointed to the second page of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Legislative Brief in the members' packets. Under State Action, it says: Expanded coverage for young adults may be structured as an insurance policy rider with supplements et cetera... More commonly, coverage is extended to all policies and the young adult is simply covered by the family premium. Some experts predict that the latter strategy may increase employer premiums by about 5 percent to 9 percent. That may not be significant, he said, but it depends upon what population sample one is looking at, and other options are available like keeping students on the plan but perhaps requiring a small rider. He mentioned this because those students who are forced to accept college plans sometimes find they are paying $1800 or more per year for coverage; if they can stay on their parents' plan, it's far cheaper than anything else.