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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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Paterson Proposes Change to Health Insurance for College Students

Under Paterson's new plan students might get an extension on the time that are under their parents' group health insurance plan. This will allow more students to be covered if they attend graduate school or stay an extra few years in undergrad. (Aleef Rahman / The Statesman)

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

The bill, known as “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.

Adults in this age bracket are not eligible to be covered under their parents’ health coverage and often are working entry-level jobs that do not provide adequete health insurance, according to the 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.

Many hospitals try to leave insurance coverage out of their treatment decisions.

According to Dr. Razia Aristide a doctor at Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y., hospital staff does “not discriminate against patients and their treatment based on their type of insurance.”

Dr. Aristide explained that 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 is a different story.

According to Dr. Aristide, “Patients who do not have insurance do not come for follow up and will often visit the hospital after their illness has progressed to a level that requires more intervention.”

Under the new law, families will pay individual premiums instead of the employers, according to the release.  Premiums will cost less because coverage will shift from individual policies rather than group ones.

Paige Eastwood, 20, a junior and a political science major, is concerned about the fiscal cost and rise in insurance for parents overall.

“Anything that has to do with expanding health care costs users money in the long run, in terms of prescription costs and what have you,” said Eastwood.

Under the “’Age 29′,” 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.  “Employees or their eligible dependents may then elect the benefit and pay the premium, which cannot be more than 100 percent of the single premium rate.”

This option can be equated to adding a line onto a family cellular phone plan. It’s called the young adult option because eligible children can opt to 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 New York State 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.”

“I suppose the fact that the job market is stale and even for kids not going on to graduate school, this is a big thing,” said Eastwood, in reference to the coverage extension bill.

Dr. Aristide approves of the extension of insurance coverage.  “23-to-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. They may not even have a physician for primary care.”

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