Health Reform: Will Your Kid Be Covered?

By Tom Murphy, AP Business Writer

The most valuable college graduation gift your child receives this spring might come from a health insurer.

The health care overhaul calls on insurers to extend coverage for dependents on a parent's health insurance plan to age 26. The law says the extension is effective for the first plan year on or after Sept. 23.

Waves of insurers have recently announced extensions that start much sooner, in part to keep young adults from hitting coverage gaps that arrive when they finish school. But that doesn't mean you can automatically sign up your kid before the first strains of "Pomp and Circumstance" play.

These voluntary extensions come with a host of qualifications. Whether your child gets one also can depend on your employer.

Q: When does coverage usually end for dependents?

A: Many insurers will keep young adults on a parent's plan until they turn 19 or graduate from college.

Most states also call for coverage extensions beyond those time frames for certain types of coverage. For instance, dependents in New Jersey can remain covered under some plans up to age 31 as long as they are unmarried or have no dependents of their own. But that's an extreme. Most states allow for extensions to around age 25. A state-by-state list is available from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Q: How much will this extension cost me, as a parent?

A: That depends on your coverage and your employer.

Insurers offer several types of coverage, including plans for single people, an adult plus a child or family coverage. With family coverage, there's usually no additional cost to add a person.

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