Health Care Law Changes for 2011: Adult Children Included in Parents' Insurance

Parents can get insurance for their adult kids up to age 26.

ByABC News
December 31, 2010, 5:54 PM

Jan. 1, 2011— -- Under President Obama's Affordable Health 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 will go 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.

Leann Olson's 21-year-old son, Alex, might have been a statistic too if it hadn't been for her husband's health insurance plan bridge. It allowed Alex to be covered this winter during his sabbatical leave from college. Leann Olson and her husband, a steel worker, would have been in a severe financial bind if they'd been forced to pay the up-front health costs for their son, whose type 1 diabetes is debilitating and chronic. Alex Olson's body has stopped producing insulin, so he depends entirely on an insulin pump that costs $9,000 per cycle. This is on top of his monthly medications, which his mother estimates cost between $400 and $500 a month.