The Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA) includes provisions specifically designed to address the medical insurance needs of children and young adults. These changes extend health coverage to millions of previously uninsured young Americans and also guarantee insurance to children with pre-existing conditions. Several other changes are scheduled to take effect in 2014 that will expand coverage to those over 26 years of age.
Up to 17 million children under 18 may have some sort of pre-existing condition that could have prevented them from obtaining health insurance before the ACA took effect. Now insurance companies may not deny, exclude, or limit coverage to children with a pre-existing condition. This protection also extends to all individual and job-related policies that are grandfathered. In 2014, the prohibition against rejecting a health insurance application on the basis of a pre-existing condition will cover Americans of all ages.
The new insurance requirements created by the ACA also affect The Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which is the component of the Medicaid program that provides low-cost or free health insurance to children. The current eligibility standards for CHIP will remain in place through 2019 and financial funding for CHIP is now guaranteed through 2015. However, given health insurance subsidies from the government along with an expansion of Medicare eligibility, there are questions regarding how the CHIP program may need to evolve in the future.
Additional ACA changes increase the age at which young adults can be removed from their parents’ insurance plan. It is estimated that this policy has already enabled up to 3 million Americans between 19-25 that were previously uninsured to gain health coverage. Previously, insurance companies could require families to remove children from their plans at age 19. This limit is now raised to age 26 and applies to young adults across the board even if they are not living at home or are currently married.
This increased coverage for young adults also provides for those children in the foster care system over age 19 to remain eligible for the Medicaid program through age 26. There is one exception to the age limit increase. If a young adult is eligible for coverage through his or her employer and their parents’ plan is grandfathered, the parents’ insurance provider is not required to observe the new age limit increase. This exception will expire in 2014.
These age limit changes include tax benefits for those parents whose employer-provided health coverage includes their adult child in their insurance plan. Generally, healthcare coverage for adult children up to age 27 is now tax-free in most cases. These tax benefits currently extend to various workplace and retiree health plans and some self-employed consumers.
Employees with cafeteria plans, or plans that allow consumers to pick from a menu of tax-free benefit options and cash or taxable benefits, may now begin to make pre-tax payments for the health coverage of their young adult children. Since insurance plans usually expire at the end of the calendar year and coverage for adult children expires on their 26th birthday, these benefits are designed to ease the financial necessity of continuing to pay for a plan for which the adult child can no longer use.
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