Michelle’s Law – A good law that we shouldn’t need

Many people who have had college students in their family have had to deal with group medical insurance rules regarding who is a dependent and how to maintain coverage for a student while they are in school.  Basically, after the student is 19 years old the policy holder needs to periodically certify that the student is a full time student in order to maintain their dependent coverage.  Once the policy holder can no longer certify the full-time status the dependent is dropped from the plan.  The alternative then is to either elect COBRA coverage where the full regular individual premium is charged and coverage is guaranteed for only 18 months or, alternatively, go without coverage.  Don’t bother lying about student status since in the event of a catastrophic illness the carrier will make you provide documentation of full-time student status and will undoubtedly deny coverage if it can’t be proven.

Consider this scenario.  A full time student is stricken with a grave illness and is forced for medical reasons to drop out of school even temporarily in order to recover.  Surprise.  Same result.  Because the dependent is no longer a student they are dropped from the policy.  They are forced to elect and pay for COBRA coverage and their membership in the plan is guaranteed only for the COBRA period, generally 18 months.  After that a gravely ill person would find it impossible to find new coverage.

Michelle’s Law is a model law that its sponsors are trying to get enacted in the states and a Federal version has also been introduced (see Michelle’s Law ).  It would provide that in such an event as I described a medically necessary 12 month period of absence would be permitted before the student’s regular coverage would stop.  This seems to be at least a fairer outcome for the student who only wants to get well in order to continue their education.  And what good is medical insurance if you can only be assured of having it if you don’t need it?  A modern day “Catch 22” if there ever was one.

In so many areas there needs to be a social contract that recognizes that in order to be able to sell a product or service the public must be treated fairly.  Dropping sick people from medical insurance doesn’t sound fair to me.  And discriminating based on family medical history or genetic markers when it comes to medical or life insurance coverage is a short step from promoting the superior species and abandoning the misfits.  Dithering over whether wind or water flattened someone’s house might be a multi-billion dollar decision that insurance companies can decide in their own favor but why should they even have that option?  Water surge of 10 feet along with 130 mph winds is a devastation that insurance should cover.  Sick students too. 

Sometimes social conscience and basic fairness need to trump the almighty dollar for the whole system to work.

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