The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) signed into law in 2010 by President Obama enables parents to carry their children on their health insurance policies up to age 26. How will this impact children with autism? Autism Speaks Government Relations intern Sara Baldwin offers an assessment.
As children with autism become young adults, many parents have concerns and confusion about their child’s health insurance coverage. The ACA will further change the landscape as its provisions are implemented over the next few years.
The age at which adults living with autism are no longer considered a “dependent” on their parents’ health insurance policy can have significant impact. Traditionally, once children reached the age of 19 they were no longer considered a “dependent” on their parents’ health insurance plan and coverage terminated. The only exception was for children who remained full-time students. For children with autism, though, traditional post-secondary education often might not be their next step, thus eliminating their ability to remain on their parents’ policy.
The ACA provides for young adults in any state to be covered on their parents’ health insurance until the age of 26 – and there is no requirement that the child remain in school or even live at home. But as the language of the ACA continues to be interpreted and applied, it is still important for parents to know what is available in their home state.
Prior to the enactment of the ACA in 2010, many states had already recognized the need to cover young adults and amended their laws to require that state-regulated health insurance plans cover dependents past age 19. While the ACA is a great advancement in addressing uninsured young adults – particularly those struggling with intellectual disabilities such as autism – some states provide more favorable coverage. Under the ACA, states are required only to change their laws to be in line with its requirements. Put another way – the ACA represents the minimum of what states must provide, but states can still provide coverage that is more favorable.
While most state laws establish a top age that is equal to, or slightly younger than, the ACA’s requirement, at least four states have more favorable coverage (with some restrictions):
“Up to” Age
|Limits on Dependent:|
|Must have no dependents and reside in New Jersey|
|Must be unmarried and reside in New York|
|Must be unmarried and reside in Ohio|
|Must have no dependents and reside in Pennsylvania|
Policy owners should be aware that state regulations apply only to fully funded insurance plans. If your company has a self-funded insurance policy, dependent coverage requirements will be governed by the ACA rather than state law. If you are unsure which type of policy your employer provides, you should contact your human resources department.
Nearly all state laws allow dependents to remain covered indefinitely as long as they remain mentally or physically dependent, regardless of age. When looking into your state laws, you may find one of the following statements:
1. The most common version, found in over 30 states, includes something similar to the following:
“…attainment of limiting age shall not operate to terminate the coverage of the child if at such date the child is and continues thereafter to be both (1) incapable of self-sustaining employment by reason of mental or physical handicap, as certified by the child’s physician… and (2) chiefly dependent upon such employee or member for support and maintenance.”
See, e.g., Con. Gen .Stat. Ann. § 38a-515.
2. Other states include the following language within the statutory definition of a “dependent:”
“…an unmarried child of any age who is medically certified as disabled and dependent upon the parent.”
See, e.g., Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 10-16-102.
3. Yet another simpler (and vaguer)version lists the limiting age and requirements for young adults and then says that coverage will also be extended to:
“…any other person dependent upon the policyholder.”
See, e.g., Del. Code Ann. Tit. 18, § 3303.
To whom, and how far, this “any other person” language extends is unclear. And despite the inclusion of “disabled dependent” language, the statutes alone do not tell parents how this language is interpreted or how the polices are implemented.
If you have questions about coverage of your adult child with autism, contact your human resources department. If they cannot answer your questions or if you lack confidence in their answers, call your state department of insurance.