Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Michelle's Law: Something New Under the Sun

Suppose you're a college student who develops a serious, perhaps even life-threatening condition such as colon cancer. And further suppose that, as part of your treatment, your oncologist recommends that you take time off from school in order to promote the healing process and receive more treatment. All well and good, except that you're on your dad's employer's health plan, and one of the requirements for continued eligibility is to be a full-time student.

Now you're faced with an impossible conundrum: if you stay in school, you stay on the health plan, but your odds of beating the cancer plummet. On the other hand, if you follow your doctor's orders, you'll be dropped from the plan, and then what?

Talk about a rock and a hard place!

But this is not just a hypothetical scenario: New Hampshire college student Michelle Morse faced just this dilemna. Unfortunately, she passed away in 2005, but her legacy is a gift to others who might face the same problem: In October of last year, President Bush signed into law HR 2851, commonly referred to as "Michelle's Law." The law, which became effective last week, requires that health insurance policies must keep a dependent's coverage in force during a "medically necessary leave of absence." And they must maintain that plan until "one year after the first date of the medically necessary leave of absence, or the date coverage would otherwise terminate under the plan."

There are, of course, some mechanisms built in to discourage abuse, such as physician certification and the like. But the point is, the previously onerous decision between coverage and health has been obviated. How many young people will this really effect? Who knows, but if just one life is saved, isn't that worth it? I can't imagine that this would significantly effect premiums; yes, it's an additional mandate, which we're generally not too fond of here at IB, but it's the exception that (perhaps) proves the rule.

[Hat Tip: Humana]
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