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Pelosi Backs Extension Of Parental Health Benefits For Kids To Age 27

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A new provision being rolled into the unified House health care bill would allow young adults to stay on their parents' health care plans until they turn 27, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Tuesday.

Flanked by young adults from 30 states, Pelosi and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) joined the bill's sponsor, first-term Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D-Penn.), to support extending eligibility for a parent's insurance plan well past graduation from high school or college. Given that nearly one-third of America's uninsured are aged 19 to 29, Pelosi said the bill would both expand coverage and reduce the amount of subsidies the government would need to provide for coverage.

"Young adults are the most uninsured group in the country. They often lose coverage at age 19 when they graduate from high school or a few years later when they graduate from college. Once they enter the workforce, they face new obstacles to getting insurance," Pelosi said. "Now with this legislation that takes them to their 27th birthday, we take them a long way down the path of some independence, some liberation to follow their aspirations right out of school.

The proposed federal law is not a new idea -- some 20 states already have eligibility extensions for adult dependents to at least age 25 -- but it would take the issue out of the hands of states who haven't given parents of young adults the option. Thirty states also offer individual coverage to young people beyond the age-19 cutoff for S-CHIP, lasting for varying periods of time. Utah was the first to pass such a law, back in 1994, but New Jersey offers the longest young-residents benefits, which last until a resident turns 30 so long as he or she claims no dependents.

State extended-eligibility laws generally don't limit insurers from jacking up premiums to cover older dependents, however. The three House Democrats did not clarify Tuesday whether they would seek to include cost controls in the provision.

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