One of the more celebrated provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was the requirement for health insurance plans to cover dependent’s care up to the age of 26. This allowed millions of young adults access to more affordable health insurance through their parent’s employer or other plan.
This provision dramatically increased the number of young adults under 26 who had health insurance coverage, which is a notoriously underinsured and uninsured demographic. However, some young adults have concerns with using their parent’s insurance.
Why Young Adults Might Avoid Using Parent’s Policies
In their early 20s, many young adults are living separately from their parents and have lifestyles of their own choosing. They may also find they need medical help that is of a sensitive nature or would be embarrassing to them if their parents found out.
Health insurance companies send explanation of benefit (EOB) statements to policyholders to make sure they are aware of what was paid. This means that Mom or Dad could easily find out about a medical need that they weren’t aware of, potentially leading to a lot of questions and discomfort for young adults.
This is especially true for certain types of care, like mental health needs, birth control, or treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. Many young adults aren’t prepared to talk to their parents about these issues and are hesitant to seek care if their parents will find out about it.
Instead, they may seek low-cost or free options, perhaps through a university’s health care or through a community health center. These options would allow them to pay out-of-pocket and maintain their privacy. Unfortunately, these options aren’t available – or adequate – for everyone, and some young adults choose to avoid getting needed care altogether.
Addressing Privacy Needs
Under the medical privacy law, HIPAA, dependents can ask for statements detailing sensitive medical information to be sent to a different address. However, insurance companies are not required to honor the request unless sharing medical information would endanger the patient, which is usually not the case.
Young adults generally don’t know this is even an option, and if they find out, they may find the process is a bit complicated or daunting.
California recently passed a law allowing people to ask insurance companies to keep sensitive information private by submitting a single one-page form. The form allows the patient to choose to have information sent to a different address, emailed, or made available online. Patients don’t have to give a reason why, and insurance companies are required to comply. Other states have systems for privacy also, including Washington, Maryland, Colorado, and others, although they vary somewhat from the California structure.
Not all insurance companies have the infrastructure needed to honor these types of requests. Keeping records unified in the insurance system while separating them out when mailing is complex. In addition, parents can still find out billing information, such as how much of a deductible remains, which can tip them off to extra care.
In the end, until disclosure laws are improved, some young adults may continue to skip needed care to maintain their privacy. Unfortunately, when young adults don’t access their insurance coverage for necessary care, serious consequences may result.
To find out what health insurance options are available for young adults turning 26, read Turning 26 Soon – Steps to Securing Health Insurance.