Personnel agency clarifies policies for insuring adult children

New cutoff age only takes effect on Jan. 1, 2011, but dependents who turn 22 before that can purchase a temporary continuation of health coverage.

The Office of Personnel Management has added guidance to its website on how health care reform will affect federal employees' adult children, clarifying that it will not begin covering dependents age 22 through 25 until Jan. 1, 2011.

"Though we are eager to provide coverage to young adults prior to January 1, the current law governing the [Federal Employees Health Benefits] Program specifically prohibits us from doing so," OPM wrote in the guidelines.

Currently federal employees' children qualify for FEHBP until they get married or turn 22, whichever comes first. But under the health care reform law President Obama signed in March, insurers will be required to offer dependents coverage until they turn 26.

That provision doesn't kick in until Sept. 23, 2010 -- six months after President Obama signed the law. Health insurance companies must start implementing the change on the first day of their subsequent plan year. A number of insurers have announced they will begin allowing adult children to stay on their parents' plans before the deadline. But because the FEHBP plan year begins on Jan. 1, OPM says it is blocked from implementing the coverage extension early.

Children who turn 22 before Jan. 1 do have an option, OPM reminded participants. The Temporary Continuation of Coverage Program will allow adult children to purchase insurance that will tide them over until they are eligible to reenroll under their parents' coverage on Jan. 1.

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