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.