No-one said life ever has to be fair but, as parents, you quickly discover the world is not set up to make things easy for you. There are challenges at every turn. Of course, all the healthcare needs can be put on the back burner if you or your partner have a family plan provided by your employers. Now all you have to do is read the small print to see what coverage is provided for children while they are at elementary school or high school while still under the magic age of 18 years. After they pass the threshold of their eighteenth birthdays, the coverage gets more patchy. They are still family members but the extent of the coverage may change. If you have not been fortunate to find an employer offering health coverage as part of the pay package, the world has been less welcoming. It’s entirely possible that you and your family are one of the growing millions who are uninsured or underinsured. This leaves a number of options to explore for the children.
For some years, the federal government has recognized that children are the future of our country. If they do not grow up strong, the future may not see the US remain so dominant internationally. So, with federal encouragement, states have been offering a safety net for children. The alternatives are Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) which was established by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 to expand health insurance coverage to uninsured children in families with income too high to qualify for Medicaid. For the record, Congress has provided about $40 billion to fund SCHIP through 2007. Federal funding is currently available. Outside the federal and state programs, some elementary and high schools group together to offer health coverage for their students where the families are uninsured or underinsured. Some states have not set generous criteria for access to their SCHIP and the group policies help the modestly well-off families bridge the health plan gap.
Once children turn adult at 18, they are mostly on their own. If you as parents provide private coverage, this can represent the best outcome as they work their way through college and university. Otherwise, this leaves the young adults to live with the risks of no cover, or accept one of the “affordable” policies offered by their college or university. It’s a sad fact your children will consider themselves invincible. Many are lucky and survive the education part of their life without accident or illness. But if anything serious goes wrong, they will add significant medical expenses to the burden of loans and credit card debts. Local community clinics can only provide basic care. The college or university policies are often highly affordable. More importantly, starting a health insurance policy at low student rates gives them track record when they later seek coverage as an employee. But one word of caution. These are not comprehensive policies and they often limit or exclude serious injuries or disease. As parents, you may feel it wise to top up the basic cover. Get multiple health insurance quotes to find the best value additional cover. Even if your children are enrolled as medical students, they cannot expect anything more than routine treatment from the medical professionals in their area. They will be treated as “ordinary” students when it comes to paying the deductible and any copayments.