(WASHINGTON)- Citing the current economic crisis, the American Federation of Government Employees today asked Congress to extend health care benefits for dependents through age 25. AFGE National President John Gage testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on federal workforce, postal service and the District of Columbia.
Extending health insurance coverage through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) to dependents up to age 25 has long been a priority for AFGE’s members. “Due to the failing economy many children of federal employees are forced to delay completion of college degrees because they must work to earn the money necessary to pay the ever-increasing tuition and fees charged by institutions of higher learning,” Gage told the subcommittee.
He also said millions of young Americans are faced with a lack of employee health care options as they enter the job market. “There are a large number of young adults whose parents are federal employees who hold jobs that provide either no employer-sponsored health insurance or health insurance options that are entirely unaffordable,” Gage said.
According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, as of 2004, approximately 13.7 million Americans between the age of 19 and 29 were uninsured. “Unless they are either full-time students, or their parents’ full-time caregivers, they, for the most part, lose eligibility for coverage under their parents’ family coverage, “Gage added. In the FEHBP, unmarried children can be covered up until the age of 22. Only in rare circumstances such as when the person is disabled will FEHBP continue to cover dependents over that age. Fourteen states have passed legislation that to some degree redefines “dependent” for purposes of family health insurance coverage, and the majority of those have extended coverage to the age of 25.”
The union is supporting legislation sponsored by U.S. Representative Danny K. Davis (D-Ill) that would extend benefits. “AFGE strongly supports H.R. 5550 because it provides a straightforward answer to the problem of insurance coverage for the young adult dependents of federal employees. The actual costs to FEHBP of extending family coverage to those in the age interval of 22 to 25 are likely to be negligible, but the benefit to families would be substantial,” Gage said during his testimony.