Turning 26 and Coverage On Parent’s Health Insurance

26th birthday

Background:

Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans and issuers that offer dependent child coverage must “continue to make such coverage available for an adult child until the child turns 26 years of age.” This requirement is regardless of the child’s dependent status, residency, student status, employment status or marital status.  This rule applies to all health plans in the individual market and to all employer health insurance plans. (29 CFR 2590.715-2714 – Eligibility of children until at least age 26.)

Termination of coverage:

The ACA requirement for adult coverage applies only until the date that child turns 26. However, some states have laws extending coverage through the end of the month the child turns 26, or until the end of the billing cycle or calendar year or possibly beyond age 26. Check with your carrier, or policy documents to verify when coverage for a child who turns age 26 ends.

COBRA:

In general, employees must notify the employer in writing within 60 days of their dependent turning 26. In turn, employers with 20 or more employees, must provide a notice of COBRA eligibility, enrollment forms, duration of coverage and terms of payment to the individuals who are no longer eligible for coverage as a dependent under their parents plan.  (Employers with 20 or fewer employees, may have similar obligation under State law e.g. Mini-Cobra, instead of under COBRA.)

Note:  

Most states have an exception to the limiting age for disabled children. For instance, for group policies issued in Texas, a child who is not capable of self-sustaining employment because of mental retardation or physical disability and who is chiefly dependent on their parents for support and maintenance must be allowed to remain on his or her parent’s insurance, without regard to age. The employee must provide to the insurer proof of the child’s incapacity and dependency:

(1)  not later than the 31st day after the date the child attains the limiting age;  and (2)  subsequently as the insurer requires, except that the insurer may not require proof more frequently than annually after the second anniversary of the date the child attains the limiting age.

(Sec. 1201.059. TERMINATION OF COVERAGE BASED ON AGE OF CHILD IN INDIVIDUAL, BLANKET, OR GROUP POLICY.)

Why does it matter?
  1. Financial benefit: Dependents represent a large portion of the cost of many employers’ health plans. Older children who have passed age 26 are often inadvertently included on an employee’s health plan because of a lack of understanding on the part of the employee or a lack of communication on the part of the employer, including not having a process to update the status of dependents.
  2. Rejected claims: Often, ineligibility isn’t determined until a dependent makes a very large claim, at which point the provider might deny coverage.

Ensuring dependents do not remain enrolled longer than they are eligible, protects not just the employer, but also the employee and his or her loved ones from future legal and financial risk.

Life Insurance – Portability & Conversion

life insurance

When an employee goes out on a leave of absence or terminates employment, it is important for employers to have a dedicated process for notifying employees of critical changes to their benefits and what is required of an employee to continue their benefits.

Often employers remember to advise about COBRA eligible benefits but forget they are also responsible for providing information about life insurance, including portability or conversion information to employees who are losing benefit eligibility.

Background: Both the portability and conversion provisions allow the employee to continue life coverage that is lost due to an employment status change.  Policies may vary, so one needs to refer to their specific policy for clarification.

  • Portability –  When an employee ports coverage, they keep the group term life coverage offered by their employer along with some, but not all of the optional benefits that were included.
  • Conversion – When an employee converts coverage, they are converting to an individual whole life (or permanent life) insurance policy. The converted policy only provides life insurance and does not include the optional benefits such as Waiver of Premium, Accidental Death and Dismemberment.

In the case of, Erwood v. Life Insurance Company of North America and WellStar Health System, Inc., a federal district court awarded $750,000 in damages to Patricia Erwood, the wife of a deceased former employee of WellStar Health System whose life insurance lapsed while he was out on disability, and the employer failed to notify him of his conversion rights.

Even though the employer had sent the employee an FMLA leave packet that included information about it being possible to continue his life insurance benefits, the court noted that the FMLA packet did not include the materials necessary to convert, where to find the materials nor when the materials would be due if he was interested in continuing his coverage. 

This is just one of several cases which demonstrates relying on the benefit plan documents or a generalized communication may not be sufficient. Employers need to be mindful they have an ERISA fiduciary duty to adequately inform participants of their benefits and provide complete information regarding the steps necessary to keep their insurance benefits, including portability and conversion.

 

 

What about the baby?

baby

Coverage of a newborn may be regulated by a combination of state, federal and carrier level regulations and rules.  Generally, in most states the state insurance law requires group health insurance policies (including HMOs) that provide maternity benefits to cover newborn children automatically for 30 or 31 days from birth.

For instance under Texas Insurance Code Sec. 1501.607 Coverage for Newborn Children:

(a) A large employer health benefit plan may not limit or exclude initial coverage of a newborn child of a covered employee.

(b) Coverage of a newborn child of a covered employee under this section ends on the 32nd day after the date of the child’s birth unless:

(1) children are eligible for coverage under the large employer health benefit plan; and
(2) not later than the 31st day after the date of birth, the large employer health benefit plan issuer receives:

(A) notice of the birth; and
(B) any required additional premium.

Added by Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 1274, Sec. 3, eff. April 1, 2005.

(The same is true for a small employer, see Sec. 1501.157 Coverage for Newborn Children)

When a group policy includes automatic newborn coverage in their plan design, if the parent is enrolled for his or her own coverage at the time of the birth, the newborn is automatically covered for the first month. (If both parents have group coverage that includes automatic newborn coverage, the two plans coordinate benefits for the baby based on the birthday rule; i.e., the plan of the parent whose month and day of birth comes earlier in the year covers the baby first, then the other parent’s plan pays remaining expenses, if any, as secondary coverage.)

To continue the child’s coverage beyond the first 30 or 31 days, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)  special enrollment rules requires that the “plan must allow an individual a period of at least 30 days after the date of the” birth to enroll the child and coverage “must begin on the date of birth.”

When in doubt on how the rules work or apply specifically to a fully-insured plan, confirming with a carrier is the best place to start. If self-insured, checking one’s plan documents in the eligibility section under “dependent insurance”,  in my experience are where the rules for newborn coverage are located.

e.g.  newborn exception2