New health mandate less than mandatory

ECONOMIC NAVIGATION & SIGHTSEEING

May 11, 2008|By JAY HANCOCK

A new law requires Maryland health insurers to cover dependent college graduates up to age 25. The idea behind yet another "mandate" for Maryland insurers was to build a bridge for young adults moving from university to the work force.

But the law doesn't apply to most Maryland families. It doesn't cover small-group policies. So if you work for a company with fewer than 50 employees, there is no requirement to insure dependents until they are 25. Likewise for insurance offered to federal employees, says Karen Barrow, spokeswoman for the Maryland Insurance Administration. Likewise for people working for big, out-of-state corporations that bought coverage in their home states. And self-insured employers don't have to cover college grads, either. Almost 1.7 million Marylanders were covered under self-insured plans last year, according to the insurance administration. Only 1.2 million people were covered by plans in which insurers bore the risk - the state's definition of an insurance company.

Don't necessarily be reassured if your card bears the name of CareFirst or some other well-known insurer. A huge part of CareFirst's business is administering claims for self-insured employers. Nothing prohibits self-insured or small employers from increasing coverage to age 25, but most probably haven't. (State employees will be able to choose such a benefit, Barrow said.) You need to ask your company's human resources department.

"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," Del. Heather R. Mizeur told The Sun.

Well, a few of them, anyway.

jay.hancock@baltsun.com

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