The Gap Game

As a recent college graduate, the news of health reform passing was an exciting time. Under the new law I can be covered by my parents insurance until I am 26 or have insurance of my own.

This provision is supposed to provide insurance during the gap in coverage between graduation and finding a job. This gap has been a real problem for young adults.

A study conducted by the Commonwealth Fund found that nearly half of people between 19 and 29 went without insurance for at least part of the last year. Statistics show that about half of those without insurance for part of the year went without coverage for two years or more.

Luckily this new law will offer coverage for many of these people. By forcing insurance companies to covering children of policy holders until the age of 26, the number of uninsured young adults will be significantly diminished.

Insurance companies started to implement these measures ahead of the September 23 deadline. The insurance companies have to provide coverage, so it is easier to just keep eligible youth on the policy. The alternative would be to drop their coverage and then go through the hassle of readmitting them on a plan.

I was not surprised by the decision of many health insurance providers to implement these measures early because making the gap shorter is a win-win situation.

Young adults win because we get to stay insured. Insurance companies win because they get more people on their plan - especially when the large groups are younger and generally healthy enrollees.

Amidst all the excitement, I forgot about the other major players in this crazy game of health insurance.

Employers play an immense role in decisions regarding health insurance for their employees.

Two-thirds of the Americans that have coverage through their employer are under a self-insured plan.
Under a self-insured plan, the employer decides what the benefits are and when they start. In these instances, the insurance company handles the paperwork and has no choice in the benefits or the timeline for implementation of reform policy.

A recent survey of large employers conducted by the consulting firm Mercer, found that only about 25% of large employers plan to implement this provision early. Among companies employing more than 5,000, only 16% are planning to implement early.

This is a concerning report, not all that surprising. As with most issues, it all comes down to money. By offering early implementation larger employers stand to spend some major cash. There is no real benefit to the employers to having more people enrolled so there is no real incentive for them to implement.

Since big business will be slower to implement the policy more young adults, like me, will fall into a gap. This forces more young Americans to go without insurance because big business does not want to spend a few extra dollars.

With the implementation of health care increasing more and more, it is important to stay informed. Talk with your employer and your representatives, find out their plans, express your concerns and show your involvement. Knowledge is power!

By Lance Evans, former CFRA intern