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Matt Seeks Health Insurance, Part 2: The Runaround Continues


Trudy LiebermanA few weeks ago I wrote about a young man I know named Matt and the trouble he had getting on his parents' health insurance policy. Thursday September 23rd was health reform's magic date for allowing young adults to stay on their parents' policies until age 26. Twenty-five year-old Matt, however, is not one of them.

His parents, retired federal employees, each have individual policies, so his mother called Blue Cross of Maryland, which offers coverage in her area to federal workers through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). Blue Cross officials said they had received no guidance about putting kids back on their parents' policies, but told her what she already knew: Even though the law said young adults could get coverage as of Thursday, children of federal employees have to wait until January for their insurance'another 'yes but' that continues to characterize our health care system.

Blue Cross tried to be helpful, though, and gave her a couple of phone numbers'one was to an insurance brokerage outfit that sells policies. Since they operate in Maryland and not in New York where Matt lives, they couldn't sell a policy to him.

The other number took her to the Temporary Continuation of Coverage office of FEHBP, which helps employees who lose their coverage because they lose their jobs as well as children of employees who lose coverage because they turn 22 or get married. 'I quickly realized they couldn't help me at all,' Matt's mother said. Officials there told her that they might be able to cover Matt if she paid retroactively for the coverage, an amount calculated from the time he turned 22. 'My stomach turned at this point,' she said. 'I thought they were giving me false information that was ridiculous.'

So having struck out with the new law extending coverage for children up to age 26, Matt and his mom turned to the insurance offerings displayed on the web site of the New York State Insurance Department. He chose to go with a policy from Emblem Health for a premium of some $700 a month, a huge hit for a student preparing to become a math teacher. He will pay that amount until next fall when he gets a teaching job that hopefully will offer good health insurance.

In the meantime, he has been forced to confront the inequities that still plague the U.S. health system and that won't necessarily disappear with the new law. The policy offered by the college where he is enrolled provides an opportunity to buy insurance-but this policy is skimpy and inadequate, thus setting up Matt's current dilemma. Colleges attended by other students in Matt's fellowship program offer far better coverage. In America, getting good health insurance is still very much the luck of the draw.

More Blog Posts by Trudy Lieberman

author bio

Trudy Lieberman, a journalist for more than 40 years, is an adjunct associate professor of public health at Hunter College in New York City. She had a long career at Consumer Reports specializing in insurance, health care, health care financing and long-term care. She is a longtime contributor to the Columbia Journalism Review and blogs for its website,, about media coverage of health care, Social Security and retirement. As a William Ziff Fellow at the Center for Advancing Health, she contributes regularly to the Prepared Patient Blog. Follow her on twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.

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Health Insurance   Trudy Lieberman   Pay for your Health Care   Children and Young People's Health   Inside Healthcare  

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Tweets that mention CFAH - Prepared Patient Forum: Matt Seeks Health Insurance, Part 2: The Runaround Continues « CFAH PPF Blog -- says
September 25, 2010 at 1:40 AM

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by eindiainsurance, Jessie Gruman. Jessie Gruman said: Matt Seeks Health Insurance, Part 2: The Runaround Continues: [...]

If it smells a rat…or “why does the public distrust the new federal health insurance law”? at The Social Medicine Portal says
October 2, 2010 at 2:40 PM

[...] Seniors with super high drug expenses were supposed to like the $250 rebate, but it is the proverbial drop in the bucket for those whose drug expenses mount in the thousands, and those who remember that the idea of allowing the government to negotiate with drug makers to bring prices down, too, was thrown under the bus. Even though young adults can now get coverage under their parentsâ?? insurance, some are finding thatâ??s not as easy as it sounds. [...]