“Michelle’s Law” Helps Ill College Students Retain Insurance Coverage
A law signed by President Bush on October 9, 2008 will now allow full-time college students who must take a leave of absence or lighten their course load due to illness, to retain their dependent status and remain on their parents’ health plan for up to a year (unless the student would otherwise lose eligibility within the year).
Prior to “Michelle’s Law,” most full-time college students who were forced to drop out of school or change their status to part-time due to health issues suddenly found themselves, at a time when they needed health insurance the most, ineligible for dependent coverage under their parents’ medical plan.
The law is named for New Hampshire college student Michelle Morse who stayed in school full-time after being diagnosed with colon cancer in order to remain insured under her parents’ policy. When advised by her doctor to reduce her course load, her parents learned that she would be required to pay monthly premiums of $550 to remain covered under their plan.
In response, many states including California passed laws allowing college students with serious health issues to retain coverage thereby allowing them to keep their focus on treatment and recovery.
To qualify for protection under Michelle’s Law, certain requirements must be met. The student must be enrolled as a full-time college student immediately before the leave of absence or schedule reduction, the student must have written certification from a treating physician that the leave of absence or reduced schedule is necessary due to a severe illness or injury and the leave or reduced schedule must have triggered the loss of student status under the health plan.
If the plan sponsor changes group health plans during a medically necessary leave and the new health plan offers coverage of dependent children, the new plan will be subject to the same rules.
The act takes effect for medically necessary leaves of absence that begin in plan years beginning on or after October 9, 2009 (January 1, 2010, for calendar-year plans).
(article written 11-10-2008)