FEHBP Dependent Change is a Long Shot

Monday - 5/10/2010, 4:00am EDT

Parents of dependent children who turn 22 this year are delighted with legislation that would immediately raise to 26 the age for coverage under their federal family health plan, the FEHBP.

In January 2011, FEHBP plans will be required to offer dependent care coverage until age 26. The enrollment period for 2011 coverage will be held this fall. But until then, the cutoff is 22, unless Congress okays a bill to advance the coverage date. The legislation was introduced by Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) , Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Kathy Dahikemper (D-Pa.).

And while it's a nice effort and all that, look at the calendar.

Even if rushed through and passed by the House and Senate (and signed by the President), time is not on the 22-to-26 bill's side. Oh, and several hundred FEHBP plans would be forced to have a mini-open season (before the regular open season) to cover 22-plus dependents whose parent or parents may have a self-only (rather than a family coverage) plan.

This is May 10th. Congress has a number of extended breaks scheduled between now and the end of the year. And lots of unplanned business - the Gulf oil spill nightmare, chaos in Europe, the stock market free-fall and that pesky volcano in Iceland - to attempt to deal with.

Benefits expert, Ed Zurndorfer doubts that even if the change is approved this year that insurance companies can handle it. He knows the FEHBP program and how Congress works. So unless and until 26 becomes the new 22 he suggests some options:

  • Once your dependent child hit his/her 22nd birthday they have one month to get new coverage. They can get it via their parents family FEHBP plan. But until January 1, 2011 they will have to pay the full premium for that health plan, plus a 2 percent administrative fee. Full premium means the employee share (around 28 percent of the premium) and the amount of the premium the government pays, which is about 72 percent. Plus the 2 percent.

  • Or they can purchase their dependent 22-plus child health care through a school (if they are in college) or on the private market. Premiums for the bridge policies range from $100 to $200 per month for persons wishing coverage between now and the end of the year.

Outlook: Hard to say. You'd better hope that some key members of Congress (who are also under the FEHBP) have dependent children who have or are about to reach age 22. Then we might get some action. Meantime, don't hold your breath.

For more on the subject, click here.

To reach me: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com


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