Insurers start early extending children's coverage until age 26

While the health reform law provision requiring health insurers to allow parents to keep children on their health insurance plan up to age 26 doesn't take effect until Sept. 23, several insurers have announced they will take steps now to keep young adults from falling into this coverage gap once they graduate from college or meet other criteria that exclude them, reports USA Today.

UnitedHealthcare in Minneapolis will offer the coverage extension to college students who are currently covered under a fully insured UnitedHealthcare plan. Similarly, Humana in Louisville, Ky., will provide uninterrupted coverage for young adults who are currently covered by their parents' Humana fully insured health plans. (Both UnitedHealthcare and Humana already allow children insured through individual health plans to remain until age 26.) WellPoint Inc. in Indianapolis will begin retaining young adults on their parents' policies effective June 1 for both fully insured group and individual health plans.

Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif., hasn't set a firm date, but plans to provide a coverage extension to individual policy holders prior to Sept. 1. Also, the health plan is talking to employer groups to try to obtain coverage extensions for their policies as well.

"Following our initial conversations and outreach to insurers, we are encouraged by the actions of WellPoint, UnitedHealthcare and other companies to bridge the gap between now and the fall when the law becomes effective," said Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS also is working with other insurers to try to obtain similar extensions.

How self-funded large-employer health plans will deal with the coverage gap is unclear, but Humana and other insurers that administrate those plans are encouraging them to adopt extensions.

For more information:
- read this Wall Street Journal article
- read this USA Today article
- read the UnitedHealthcare press release
- read the Humana press release
- read the WellPoint press release
- read the HHS press release