Legislation Proposed To Allow Health Coverage for Adult Children Under Federal Employee Health Plans

Legislation has been introduced to modify the law implementing the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program so employees could add coverage for their adult children who qualify.

Last week, we published an article on Your Adult Children and Federal Employee Health Insurance. The gist of the article was that while new health care legislation allowed adult children to age 26 to be carried on a federal employee’s health insurance beginning in 2010, the existing legislation for the Federal Employee’s Health Benefits Program did not allow the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to implement this change.

OPM stated in its guidance:

Under the Affordable Care Act, adult children up to age 26 will be eligible for health insurance coverage. The effective date of this provision is the first day of the plan year that is six months following enactment of the law. For the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program, that means January 1, 2011.

In effect, while the health care legislation allowed children up to age 26 to be carried on their parents’ health insurance, OPM could not implement the change until January 2011—even though at least some insurance companies were willing to make the change to allow this to occur this year.

A new bill introduced in Congress this week would provide OPM with the legislative authority it needs to make the change. The FEHBP Dependent Coverage Extension Act, sponsored by Reps. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.; Gerry Connelly, D-Va.; Kathy Dahlkemper, D-Pa.; and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., would amend the laws governing FEHBP so employees could add coverage for their adult children who qualify under the new guidelines during the current year’s plan.

"This coverage would be particularly helpful to dependent children about to graduate from trade school, college or university who could have difficulty finding employment with health benefits in the present unfavorable job market," according to a press release from the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE).

I realize there are still a number of unanswered questions as to how the changes to the federal health program for employees will be administered with the changes that are occurring. As answers to these questions are provided in new guidance or regulations from OPM, we will advise our readers as soon as it is available.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47