Benefit Services answers questions on extending health coverage to children up to age 26

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Joe Schwartz

The new national health reform legislation, the Affordable Care Act of 2010, allows parents to cover their children, up to their 26th birthday, on their health plans and pre-tax medical reimbursement accounts. Cornell will hold a special status change enrollment period Sept. 1-30 so that faculty and staff may cover their eligible children on their endowed health and endowed dental plans, and endowed and contract college employees can enroll in or increase their existing Select Benefits medical reimbursement plans.

Below, Director of Benefit Services Paul Bursic answers common questions on these changes.

Q: Who is eligible for the extension of dependent coverage? Do the children have to be students?

A: Children up until their 26th birthday qualify even if they do not live at home, are not students, are not dependents on their parents' tax returns or live out of state, are married or work for employers that offer health insurance.

Q: What if my child was previously removed from my endowed plan due to age limits or student status, but now qualifies -- can I put my child back on my plan? Is the change automatic?

A: No changes are automatic: You need to complete a Dependents Ages 19-26 Special Enrollment Form during the Sept. 1-30 enrollment period, with coverage retroactive to Sept. 1. The form will be available online at beginning Sept. 1. Alternatively, you may make changes to your plan during the annual open enrollment period in November, with changes taking effect Jan. 1, 2011.

Q: My child is already covered on my endowed health and dental plans as a student. Do I need to enroll him again under these new rules?

A: The special enrollment period is for children not currently covered under your health insurance plan. You don't need to re-enroll dependents who are already on your plan.

Q: How will this coverage extension affect my premiums?

A: If you already have family plan coverage that includes other children, you will experience no increase in your endowed health or dental plan premium. If you are moving from individual (or spouse/same-sex partner) to the most inclusive family coverage level, you will see an increase but will not have to pay COBRA premiums for children until they reach age 26 and age out of the plan.

Q: When will contract college health plan changes be implemented?

A: New York state has not yet released details, but the state will need to make coverage available for children up to age 26 under normal family premium rates by Jan. 1, 2011.

Q: In the Select Benefits program, how do I get reimbursed for medical expenses incurred by my children ages 19-26?

A: Effective immediately, you can submit for reimbursement medical bills incurred by your eligible children that insurance plans did not or will not cover, going back to March 30, 2010. You do not have to enroll your child in the health or dental plans to qualify for Select Benefit enrollment at this time.

Q: If I am not enrolled in Select Benefits for 2010, can I enroll in Select Benefits to cover medical expenses, even if some of them are my own?

A: You can enroll in Select Benefits for the rest of this year if you have a child between the ages of 19 and 26 and will incur expenses for that child. If you are already in Select Benefits and have a child between the ages of 19 and 26, you can increase your deductions for 2010. Claims for reimbursement must be incurred from Sept. 1, 2010, through March 15, 2011.

Q: What if I have other questions?

A: Visit Benefits Services' website at, e-mail or call the Resource Center at 607-255-3936 workdays, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.



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Nancy Doolittle