ANNAPOLIS – A House panel stripped a bill to require health insurers to carry policyholders’ children up to age 30, substituting information requirements and sending it to the floor.
Sponsoring Delegate Dan K. Morhaim, D-Baltimore County, supports the changes released by the House Health and Government Operations Committee Tuesday.
Morhaim said he introduced the bill after he was contacted by constituents upset that their adult children had been booted from insurance without their knowledge.
The bill addressed the “grand chasm of no insurance,” which faces young adults after they are no longer eligible for their parents’ policy, he said.
The committee’s amended version of the bill mandates insurance companies notify parents 60 days before a child loses coverage and provide literature on other options.
At a Jan. 27 hearing, committee members considered four issues: at what age should coverage end, how dependency should be considered, whether married children should be exempted and how the insurance risk should be divided.
After testimony by insurance advocates, the committee abandoned two proposed amendments about risk allocation and changed the nature of the bill entirely.
Insurance representatives said there are plenty of options available to young adults other than remaining on a parent’s policy.
For instance, a healthy 26-year-old can get private insurance from about $600 a year. Internet sites such as www.ehealth.com and www.insure.com can help consumers shop comparatively, the representatives said.
“One of the things that became clear in the hearing is that people on group policies don’t know how to shop for individual insurance,” said Elizabeth Sammis, senior vice president for corporate communications and external affairs for Mid Atlantic Medical Services.
Sammis called the amended bill a “good compromise.”
“The notification we will provide under the legislation will help them follow up and find appropriate insurance for their children,” she said.
Insuring young adults also might raise parents’ employer costs, some representatives said.
Adults in their mid-20s are higher-risk to insure than one might think, due partially to pregnancy costs, said Fran Doherty, vice president of government affairs for CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield.
But Doherty said selling insurance to young adults isn’t easy.
“One of the things that happens with these kids is they don’t think they need it . . . it’s a very difficult sell unless Mom and Dad step in and say ‘You need health insurance,'” she said.
The new bill will require insurance companies to sell their products, said Doherty.
“We can do a better job of communicating what we have to sell,” which will translate into more benefit from health care, she said.
The bill also requires that the Maryland Insurance Administration provide online and written lists of insurance carriers offering individual coverage plans.
If it becomes evident that there are not enough options for young adults, Morhaim said, lawmakers can revisit the issue. – 30 – CNS-2-17-04