County expands family health insurance

Oct 22, 2008

Palm Beach Post--October 21, 2008

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

WEST PALM BEACH — Is 30 the new 25?

It soon will be for Palm Beach County employees, who will be able to keep their unmarried adult children on their health insurance policies until the offspring hit the big 3-0.

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And similar changes could be awaiting workers at many other employers across Florida, thanks to a new state law.

County commissioners agreed Tuesday to bump up the age limit for their employees’ children, expanding availability to cover ages 26 through 30. To be eligible, the dependent must be unmarried and have no children, be a student or Florida resident and have no other health coverage.

"Why not 40 or 50 years old for kids?" Commissioner Bob Kanjian joked before the board signed off on the new benefits.

The change was required to comply with a provision of Gov. Charlie Crist’s plan to expand health coverage, which lawmakers passed in May. The provision requires governments and many small businesses to offer similar coverage to adult children of their employees until they turn 30.

As a result, hundreds of thousands of uninsured residents across the state may soon have access to health care.

State law historically had required health plans to allow dependent coverage through age 25.

It is unclear how many county employees will seek the coverage for their adult children, said Nancy Bolton, director of the county’s risk management department. Because of the change, 75 dependents who would have been too old to qualify for the county’s health insurance plan next year will now be eligible.

Bolton said employees will be required to pay the full cost of the coverage, minimizing the expense to the county. Commissioners decided not to contribute toward the cost, as the county does for other eligible dependents.

"It is the employee paying the full cost for those folks," Bolton said.

The monthly premiums will range from $386 to $1,053 per child, depending on the plan.