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For Students, Health Insurance May Not Have an Expiration Date

Pink eye? Flu-like symptoms? Broken limbs? If you just graduated from college, you might hesitate before going to a hospital for treatment.

In his 2010 State of the State speech, New York Governor David A. Paterson placed special emphasis on a bill that extends the availability of health insurance coverage to young adults through the age of 29.

The bill, known “Age 29” Dependent Coverage Extension, allows young adults to be covered by their parents’ group health insurance policy.

According to a press release from the governor’s office, “young adults ages 19 to 29 represent 31 percent of uninsured New Yorkers.” This new bill is attempting to provide health care for that age group.

These adults, “often become ineligible for coverage under their parents’ policies at age 19, or…find themselves in entry-level jobs that do not provide employer-based health insurance,” according to the press release.

The current health care debates over a public insurance option for the 45.7 million uninsured people in the United States have failed to acknowledge coverage of the 19 to 29 age group.

This New York State legislation, passed in July 2009, acknowledges the health insurance issues of recent college graduates and young adults with jobs that fail to provide insurance coverage.

Aleef Rahman, 22, a graduate student in the Stony Brook University Masters program in Physiology and Biophysics, is grateful for the law. “Seeing as I’m a student, it’s one less concern for me to worry about…I could get through all of medical school and residency and still be covered by my parents at this rate.”

Unfortunately, most undergraduate students are unaware of their coverage status, much less what kind of health insurance is available to them after graduation and entry into the job market.

According to Dr. Razia Aristide of Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, hospital staff does “not discriminate patients and their treatment based on their type of insurance”.

Dr. Aristide explained that in Methodist Hospital, patients are treated the same whether they have insurance or not, and whether they have private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid.

Paying for hospital bills, however, is a different story.

Dr. Aristide noted, “Patients who do not have insurance do not come for follow up and will often present once their illness has progressed to a level that requires more intervention”.

Under the new law, “premiums will be paid for by families, not employers, and would cost less because coverage is under group policies rather than individual policies,”according to the press release from the governor’s office.

Under the “Age 29” Dependent Coverage Extension, there are two ways in which coverage can be extended, a “young adult” option, and a “make available” option.

The young adult option “permits eligible young adults through the age of 29 to continue or obtain coverage through a parent’s group policy,” according to information on the New York State Insurance Department website, where  “employees or their eligible dependents may then elect the benefit and pay the premium, which cannot be more than 100% of the single premium rate.”

This option can be equated to adding a line onto a family cellular phone plan, and is called the young adult option because eligible children can opt continue to be covered by a parent’s health insurance until age 29.

The “make-available” option requires insurers to make an extended coverage option available to the children of their policyholders.

The NYS Insurance Department places emphasis on the fact that, for the “make-available” option, “the employer or group decides whether to offer this benefit to employees.  The young adult does not get to make this choice.”

Dr. Aristide approves of the extension of insurance coverage, and commented, “23-29 is the age that people graduate college and may not be employed immediately, which means that this population may not have adequate insurance coverage and will not be able to follow up with their physician,or may not even have a physician for primary care.”

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