Hampshire lawmakers return to the Statehouse this week,
first bill on the House calendar is known as "Michelle's Law,"
named for Michelle Morse, a 22-year-old Plymouth State
University graduate who recently died after a lengthy battle
measure, HB 37, would extend health insurance coverage for up to
one year to college students who must take leaves of absence due
to serious illnesses.
diagnosed with colon cancer in December 2003. Doctors
recommended that she reduce her class load in order to avoid
stress and to focus more on her therapy program.
medical advice, Michelle pressed forward with her full-time
college schedule. If she dropped out of college, or even
became a part time student, Michelle would have lost her health
medical bills were being paid for by her mother's health plan at
work. That plan allows for unmarried full-time college
students to continue with free medical coverage under a parent's
benefits package. If a student leaves college or becomes a
part-time student, the parent is required to pay $550 per month
to keep an adult child on the plan.
mother, AnnMarie Morse, could not afford the $550 monthly fee.
So Michelle reluctantly decided to continue with the full course
load, despite all the pressure which that entailed.
in November, just days before a House committee was scheduled to
vote on "Michelle's Law." The bill passed out of
committee unanimously and will be considered this week by the
adults cannot afford to pay for health insurance on their own because they simply do not
have sufficient income to pay for a medical plan in addition to
other necessities such as rent, car payments, auto insurance,
food, and clothes. Many are full-time or part-time college
students, while others who are not in school are stuck in
lose health care coverage under their parents' plans when they
turn 19, although full-time students often are given an
New Hampshire bill is aimed at a narrow group of students --
those who must take medical leave due to a serious illness --
several other states have taken or are
considering a broader approach. They would allow young
adults to remain on their parents' plans longer regardless of
whether they are in college.
According to Laura Tobler, a health policy specialist with the
National Conference of State Legislatures, reforms in some
states are addressing the nation's fastest growing uninsured
population: young people ages 18 to 24.
Utah and New Mexico,
dependents are covered until their 26th birthday, regardless of
whether they are enrolled in school. A similar measure
passed the California Legislature last year but was vetoed by
the Governor. That bill is expected to be reintroduced
A New Jersey bill would allow dependents up to age 30 to remain
on their parents' plans, though companies could charge more for
such coverage. New York is considering raising the maximum
age for dependents from 23 to 25.
Under a new law which went into effect this week, Colorado
residents up to age 25 can be covered under their parents' plans
as long as they are unmarried, financially dependent on their
parents or living with them.
"Michelle's Law" passes the New Hampshire Legislature and is
signed by the Governor, as expected, Michelle's mother says she
will not be satisfied because state laws such as this can only
regulate health insurance carriers and health maintenance
organizations, but not self-funded health benefits plans.
So AnnMarie Morse will push for changes in federal law that
would apply to employers with self-funded insurance plans,
including the school district where she works.
Michelle's case is heart wrenching and compelling, it is only a
symbol of a much larger national problem.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, about 30
percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 24 lack health
The passage of
"Michelle's Law" in New Hampshire should trigger a national
conversation about the need for broader legal reforms and the
development of creative strategies to provide health coverage
for more young adults.
conversation on this subject should lead to the conclusion that
health coverage for Americans should not depend on college
enrollment. It should also stimulate more states to
pass laws protecting those who turn 19 from being dropped from a
parent's health plan at work.
The details of
such new laws may vary from state to state, and reforms may
require some financial contribution by young adults or parents,
but on one point there should be a consensus. The time has
come to eliminate workplace rules requiring full-time college
attendance in order for a parent to continue health coverage for
a child past the age of 19.
Unmarried America 2006
Thomas F. Coleman, Executive Director of Unmarried America, is an
attorney with 33 years of experience in singles' rights, family
diversity, domestic partner benefits, and marital status discrimination.
Each week he adds a new commentary to Column One: Eye on Unmarried
email@example.com. Unmarried America is a nonprofit
information service for unmarried employees, consumers, taxpayers, and