My Brush with Obamacare
| Scott Masten |
I had my first personal encounter with America’s new health care legislation last week. The University of Michigan’s current (i.e, pre-Obamacare) faculty-and-staff health care benefits provide health care coverage for faculty children up to age 25. As a result, my daughter, who turns 24 this next month, was eligible for an additional year of coverage under my benefits. Last week, the UM Benefits Office sent employees an email announcing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s much-touted requirement that health care policies hereafter provide coverage of dependents up to age 26. The announcement added, “The health care reform law removes all previous and current eligibility requirements for coverage.” But then a little further down was the following: “In order to be eligible for coverage under your benefits, a dependent child must … not [be] eligible for health benefits through his or her own employer.” So my daughter, who was eligible to remain on my UM plan for another year before Obamacare, becomes ineligible January 1 because she works for a small company that offers a health plan. It’s not the end of the world, of course. My daughter (who lives at home) will be a bit poorer because she will have to pay for her own health care a year sooner than expected, and the coverage probably won’t be as comprehensive as the UM plan is. If that were the only issue, I wouldn’t have bothered with this post.
What makes this blog-worthy was my subsequent communications with UM’s Director of Benefit Operations, who noted, in response to my inquiry about the change in eligibility, that “There is no regulatory language qualifying the type of plan, or even the level of contribution required.“ In other words, an 18-25 year-old minimum-wage worker whose employer offered a $1,000 per month health plan with a $250 co-pay and a $500 per month deductible and no prescription, dental, or vision coverage, would be ineligible to remain on his or her parent’s health plan under the new law. The UM’s DBO said they are expecting to see employee dependents quitting jobs in order to remain on their parent’s health plans. The public has been treated to a steady stream of surprises buried in the health care legislation since its passage. The legislation’s apparent failure to recognize that “health benefits” is not a single, homogeneous commodity, and the perverse incentives that failure creates, looks like another to add to the list.