Laura Colbert, executive director of the advocacy group Georgians for a Healthy Future, said the mass health insurance loss “spotlights a real weakness in our health system.” “On the other…
By Jeff Cornett RN MSN
Director of Training, Research, & Advocacy
Hemophilia of Georgia
One of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, the new health insurance reform law, is the provision that allows young people to stay on their parents’ health insurance until age 26. Officially scheduled to be implemented on September 23, 2010, several insurers have put this benefit into effect early so that spring 2010 graduates can remain insured.
Georgia families covered by one of the largest insurers in our state have been surprised to find that this benefit is not available to them and won’t be unless Congress passes a law to make it so. These families are covered by TRICARE, the program that provides civilian health benefits for military personnel and their dependents. The Department of Defense controls all aspects of TRICARE and it is not affected by the Affordable Care Act. Therefore, military dependents will continue to be pushed out of TRICARE coverage at age 21 (or age 23 if they are full-time students). TRICARE maintains a webpage to explain this.
As publicity has spread about the issue, including articles in the Washington Post and Stars and Stripes, members of Congress have taken action to change the TRICARE rules. Representative Heinric of New Mexico introduced a bill (HR 4923) to bring TRICARE’s policy on dependent coverage inline with the rest of the country. HR 4923 has 89 co-sponsors including Georgia congressmen Johnson, Marshall, and Broun. HR 4923 has been incorporated into this year’s defense authorization bill (HR 5136 – National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011).
In the Senate, Senator Udall of Colorado introduced a bill identical to the House bill: S 3201, the TRICARE Dependent Coverage Extension Act. The Senate bill has 31 cosponsors but neither Georgia senator has signed on.
Unfortunately, as the Washington Post story points out, it may be the end of the year before the Defense Authorization bill passes and then a lag period before TRICARE incorporates the change. Georgians are encouraged to contact Georgia’s senators, especially Senator Saxby Chambliss who is on the Armed Services Committee, and ask them to support raising TRICARE’s dependent coverage to match that of the rest of the country.