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Medical Insurance Changes for 2011

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Under President Obama's Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law on March 23, 2010, insurers must offer parents the option of keeping their adult children covered under their medical plan until age 26. This mandate went into effect for most medical insurance plans whose benefit year begins Jan. 1, 2011.

Most health insurance plans previously dropped children from parental insurance plans once they turned 19 or graduated college. This controversial insurance modification is seen by many Americans as an extension of childhood for adults in their 20s, while for others, the measure is necessary to end the insurance gap that affects many young people.

A 2008 survey conducted by the National Institutes of Health showed that about 30 percent of adults between the ages of 20 and 29 do not have health insurance, a circumstance largely brought on by large numbers of young adults taking nontraditional, temporary or low-paying jobs that do not come with conventional employee benefits such as health insurance. That makes this age group the largest without health insurance.

While coverage for adult children depends entirely on their parents' insurance policy (for example, vision and dental care may not be included as eligible benefits), adult children -- including those married and the financially independent -- can now be included on their parents' plans.

Under the federally mandated new law, all health care plans are required to provide coverage to children under the age of 19, regardless of pre-existing health conditions, but similar coverage may not be extended to those older than 19. Additionally, bringing in an adult child will incur additional costs, the extent of which depends on the insurance provider and the amount of dependents listed on a plan. However, a qualified young adult must be offered coverage at the same cost as any other dependent on a parent's existing plan.

No special action is required by parents or their insurance dependents. Their dependents only need to enroll during the plan's open enrollment period, which, for most plans, ends on the first day of the new benefit year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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