We have had a number of inquiries and comments on our blog post regarding Act 4, the amendment to Pennsylvania’s insurance company law relating to health insurance coverage for adult children up through and including age 29. Prior to Act 4, if an employer offered dependent coverage, insurance companies were only required to provide coverage to children on their parents’ insurance until the age of 19. The Pennsylvania Insurance Department estimates that almost 40% of those who were uninsured in Pennsylvania are between the ages of 19 and 29.
A key phrase of Act 4 provides that the insurer’s obligation to provide coverage to a child of an insured employee beyond a specified age, up through and including the age of 29, is "at the option of the policyholder", meaning the employer. Also, coverage would be provided at the insured employee’s expense. Employees may wonder why an employer would not choose to provide this coverage and what the value is of legislation mandating insurers to offer coverage while giving employers the ability to opt out. In addition, if an employer is self-insured, Act 4 does not make any change in what coverage must be offered because it applies only to insurers.
While insurers may appreciate the opportunity to provide coverage to the group of young adults who are underserved, employers are not likely to be as supportive. It has been projected that the mandate would increase employees’ contributions to their group health insurance, since insurance laws require additional costs to be spread among all employees, and not just those with adult children. This may result in overall health insurance premiums rising for employers and all employees. In addition, this effect could result in more employers becoming self insured to avoid legal mandates such as extended adult child coverage or Pennsylvania mini COBRA application requiring COBRA coverage for employers employing fewer than 20 employees.