Garden variety insurance

Isn't it fascinating that 30 states already have some form of provision for insuring young adults? You can see what I wrote about it in today's Philadelphia Inquirer by clicking here. New Jersey's situation is interesting and revealing.

In the Garden State, employers who have insurance (as opposed to self-insuring) must offer their employees an opportunity to bring their adult children onto their policies. This is essentially a pass-through. Either the employees or the young adults must pick up the tab for the actual expense.

This may sound better than it is. First of all, only 23 percent of Jersey workers are covered in companies that provide insurance. The state government also must offer this provision, so that brings it up to 30 percent. Most companies self-insure. I think this statistic is really revealing about the proportion of companies that self-insure. High!!!

So to gain some insight into how this played out, I talked to Christine Stearns. She's the health care lobbyist at the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, a pro-business organization. In some ways, I expected her to moan about what a hassle this is for employers, etc., but she said no such thing. "I don't think it has been that big of a deal," she said. 

More troubling to her, she said, is "the overall decline in coverage and the significant decline in dependent coverage. Increasing premiums and the faltering economy have led to people making tough choices. We're seeing a dramatic decline in covered lives in the small employer market."

(I do love the term "covered lives." Sounds like everyone should be issued a blanket.)

So guess how many young adults actually use this coverage statewide, according to Wardell Sanders, president of the New Jersey Association of Health Plans, the insurance industry trade group? A grand total of 13,026 as of December.