Graduates can stay on insurance until age 25

May 02, 2008|By Bradley Olson | Bradley Olson,Sun reporter

Thousands of seniors graduating from Maryland colleges this spring will be guaranteed the right to stay on their parents' health insurance until they turn 25, thanks to a law that went into effect this year.

In the past, many lost coverage when they finished their studies, making the group - especially those who attend graduate school - among the most likely in the country to lack insurance, according to studies of the issue.

"I know this will help a lot of students, including me, especially considering how expensive health insurance has become," said Jenny Haley, 21, a political science and economics major from Towson University who will begin graduate work at the Johns Hopkins University in the fall.

Haley said that without the law passed by the General Assembly last year, she probably would have been cut off next year.

She joined a number of students, health care advocates and lawmakers yesterday who began a push to inform students and parents of the change as part of Cover the Uninsured Week.

The law took effect Jan. 1, but Haley and other students are among the first it will apply to. Many advocates noted that employers are in the middle of or are about to begin open enrollment for their insurance and might not be aware of the change.

"The Class of 2008 can search for that first job without worrying that a car accident, unplanned pregnancy or sudden illness will bury them in medical debt instead of job offers," said Del. Heather R. Mizeur, a Montgomery County Democrat and one of the sponsors of the bill that extended the qualification age to 25.

Allison Burns, a senior nursing student at Towson, said the costs of some common prescription drugs for college-age students - such as antidepressants, birth control and antibiotics - become prohibitive without insurance, which some students avoid paying for because they view themselves as healthy.

"I'm fortunate that there are many jobs available in nursing," said Burns, 22. "But I have friends with other majors who may find difficulty getting a job, and this will definitely help them."

The new law is one of a number of health care-related initiatives state lawmakers have passed since last year. Others include an expansion of those who qualify for Medicaid, increased coverage of prescription drugs for seniors and new dental care benefits for needy children.

"This has been a cradle-to-grave health care expansion," said Vincent DeMarco, president of Maryland Citizens Health

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