Young adults might have to wait for health care coverage

In the midst of college graduation season, health insurance experts warned Monday that many employers will not be prepared to offer coverage to dependents up to age 26 before 2011, despite insurance companies' early commitment to provide that coverage this year.

"For young adults who are graduating this spring, it's really important to go to your employers and see if they are starting this right off the bat, and when their enrollment year begins," said Sara Collins, an economist at the Commonwealth Fund.

While insurance companies are required by the health overhaul law to offer coverage for dependents as old as 26 on their parents' plans after Sept. 23, Collins said the availability of coverage would depend on when an employer's enrollment period begins.

"It will likely be later than that," said Collins, referring to the September deadline.

Roland McDevitt, healthcare research director at consulting firm Towers Watson, agreed that the reality of coverage for dependents this year is unlikely.

"The detail that most people don't understand is all the administrative enrollment stuff that's behind a large employer's health plan is actually typically done by the employer, not the health plan," said McDevitt, who explained that employers are responsible for determining how to enact many provisions of the requirement, including whether to offer dental and vision coverage, which is not mandated under the healthcare law.

McDevitt said few of his clients were likely to start offering coverage to dependents under 26 before their 2011 plan year begins. He warned that many small- and medium-size businesses may not be ready to handle the administrative requirements of implementing the law.

"I suspect that group is not as well prepared to sort of plan for all these administrative issues," said McDevitt.

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