Expert on health care policy to chat about changes to the insurance coverage age limit for young adults

November 27, 2007

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

Barb Langner and Marcia Nielsen, of the Kansas Health Policy Authority, will chat about proposed changes to the state's insurance plans to better cover young adults. They will also field questions about the KHPA board's 21-point plan to improve Kansas' health care. The report came out earlier this month.


Hi I am Christine Metz today's moderator. We have Barb Langner and Marcia Nielsen from the Kansas Health Policy Authority to talk about their 21-point plan on health policy reform. Among the proposals are plans to improve health insurance coverage for those between the ages of 19 and 25. Barb and Marci thanks for chatting with us today.

Barb Langner:

We are glad to be here to talk about these important issues


Okay, let's get started with the questions. Our first one is from Samsnewplace.


There is a true need for health insurance coverage for those 23-26 yoa. and the elderly as well. Our company will only cover through age 23, but that is when young adults start grad school and don't work full-time jobs yet. What types of plans do you foresee becoming available for these young adults?

Barb Langner:

We very much agree that these young adults, many who are in graduate school, need access to affordable health insurance. The board is recommending two policies to help this population. First, providing policies that are designed specifically with young adults in mind, having a focus on health promotion, disease prevention and catastrophic coverage. These polices would be more affordable than more comprehensive health insurance that would typically be offered to families in Kansas.
This is also similar to the policy that the state of Massachusetts recently enacted to help young people find affordable health insurance.
The second policy is focused on keeping young adults on their parents' policy as long as they are dependents through the age of 25. It's increasingly more common for students and other young adults to be living at home with their parents and many adults would like to keep their children through the age of 25 on their health insurance policy. Some states are going as high as the age of 30. We are proposing to keep them on their family's health insurance until the age of 25.


My situation follows the example I've read about recently: I have a daughter at KU School of Pharmacy. She's 22, and will turn 23 in January. She has two more years of school to get through before she'll be in a position that provides medical insurance coverage. Until then, her mother and I are looking at options to provide coverage, since my current policy will drop her at age 23. Any suggestions?

Barb Langner:

This is a common issue. You can buy your daughter an individual policy but it is medically underwritten. So if she is healthy you will be able to find a policy for her that is relatively inexpensive. If she has health issues, the cost will go up. Our young adult policies would allow her to stay on your insurance policy or allow you to purchase policies especially designed for young adults.


Currently there are many health insurance plans available in the private market for the 23-26 age group for a very reasonable cost. Some are well under $50 per month. What does your agency plan to do to educate young people about this availability and to encourage them to make the purchase of health insurance a personal financial priority?

Barb Langner:

The KHPA is recommending the creation of a web-based health insurance clearinghouse to educate consumers about policies available to them. This will include information about tax advantaged health insurance (Section 125 plans). The clearinghouse we are proposing would not operate as a regulatory entity, but as an educational tool to compare health insurance plans. In addition, we want to provide Kansans about the cost and quality of health care services as well as the appropriate use of medical services ("evidence based medicine") which we will also be providing online in collaboration with the State's libraries. We will link all of these initiatives to our website and focus on outreach so that Kansans are aware that these tools are available.


Okay, we have time for one last question. This one is from toefungus. Thanks for your interest today.


Children and elderly need healthcare coverage. But, we folks in the middle are being forgotten about and employer coverage is almost unaffordable for the average worker. Do you see a day soon when universal insurance will be the norm?

Barb Langner:

Health insurance is getting increasingly less affordable for middle class families, across the state and the country. States like Kansas can and should try to use the policy tools available to us to help control the costs of health care and commensurately health insurance. However, I believe that states cannot solve this issue alone and we will need leadership at the federal level (since about half of all health insurance is regulated by the federal goverment). I also believe that government cannot resolve these issues in isolation. Over three fourths of the growing health care costs in our country are spent on the management of chronic diseases, and thus we must take more responsibility -- as individuals, families, communities, and in schools and workplaces -- to improve our health behaviors and prevent/manage chronic disease. Likewise, we need our health care system to become more cost effective, focused on the appropriate use of health care systems, and the provision of coordinated person-centered care with a strong emphasis on primary care (which improves outcomes AND controls costs).


Well, that is all the time we have today. Thanks so much Barb and Marci for joining us.


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