College students about to graduate and other young adults in danger of losing healthcare coverage under their parents' policies may get a break.
Three of the nation's largest health insurers announced this week that young adults can remain under their parents' policies until Sept. 23, when a new federal law guarantees them coverage.
UnitedHealthcare, WellPoint Inc. and Humana Inc. said they will not wait until President Obama's new healthcare reforms take effect. They include provisions allowing young adults to remain under their parents' health plans until age 26.
Other companies may follow their lead, federal officials said.
UnitedHealthcare, of Minneapolis, and Humana, of Louisville, Ky., said they would immediately bridge the coverage for young adults.
UnitedHealthcare's decision is expected to affect about 150,000 young adults, the company said.
"Our goal is to provide continuity of existing coverage," spokeswoman Cheryl Randolph said.
In its statement, Humana said: "Young adults who are finishing college or just beginning to look for a job in such a competitive environment won't have to worry that they'll lose their health coverage."
WellPoint, based in Indianapolis, said its new rule will take effect June 1. The company said it would automatically retain young adults covered under their parents' policies offered by employers or purchased individually.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius welcomed the insurers' actions and said she was urging other insurance companies to follow suit. Young adults often cannot afford health insurance on their own, she said.
"We are encouraged by the actions of WellPoint, UnitedHealthcare and other companies to bridge the gap between now and the fall when the law becomes effective," Sebelius said in a statement.