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Adult Child Stays on his Parents' Family Policy. Thanks, Obamacare!

Theresa BrownGold's painting "Adult Child Stayed on Parents' Health Insurace" for her art project, Art As Social Inquiry.

(Interview 2009. Oil on linen, 40 ins. x 30 ins.)

Update 2021

Today, adult children are able to stay on their parents' family health plans up to age 26 thanks to a provision in the 2010 healthcare law. Our son (in this portrait) benefited from the new law. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed while he was in college. After graduating college, he was able to stay on our family plan until he got a job with health benefits.

Before 2010 we were afraid for our adult children. If they did not get jobs with health benefits after college, these young adults would have to fend for themselves. And in many cases, their parents would be frantic wondering how to get a single health insurance policy for their adult children especially if the kids had preexisting conditions.

How can I convey what it's like to be afraid for our adult children? It is not the screaming-and-pounding-the-counter kind of scared a death would trigger. Or the curling-up-in-a-ball-on-the-bed-and-sobbing-alone fear thing. It's the flurries in the gut, a loop the loop rushing to the head when an elevator stutter steps. It's the dread constricting the breath before opening the mailbox and getting the letter -- no longer eligible for coverage...Now what?

Before healthcare reform, insurance companies practiced medical underwriting, reviewing a person's health history to set rates. A record of disease in a person's chart could mean an insurer might charge a higher premium or not sell the individual a policy at all. This is the insurance underworld young adults faced when they aged off their parents' family plans before the Affordable Care Act ended the practice.

We parents held our breath waiting for insurers to approve our adult children's applications for individual policies. Fingers-crossed, Hail Marys if religion applied, or a shot of scotch.

Thank you, Obamacare for making access to health insurance easier for young adults.

Artist Note (3/2012)

This is my son. As of October 2010, the Affordable Care Act allows adult children under the age of 26 to stay on their parents’ insurance plans.

Our son stayed on ours until the summer of 2011 when he got a job that provided health insurance coverage. Even married adult children can stay on their parents’ plans.

Before the Affordable Care act reformed the insurance market, adult children had to be enrolled in school to stay on our policy. I sent and re-sent the insurance forms proving that our adult children were full-time students, and eligible to stay on our insurance policy. I found the process very frustrating. Somehow the insurance company always lost the paperwork. Then I’d get a notice their coverage was being cancelled. Panic would set in. I’d have to call the broker, and get it straightened out.


A study. Oil on linen, 24 ins. x 20 ins.

American College Student, Insured, age 21

Insured under parents’ plan until age 23.

The insurer will drop this college student from his parents' plan unless they provide proof he is enrolled in college at least part time.


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