Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona Extends Coverage for Unmarried Dependent Children Through Age 29 on Individual Under 65 Products; Dependent Coverage No Longer Contingent on Full-Time Student Status

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona (BCBSAZ) today announced that it has extended the age limit for coverage of unmarried dependent children on their parents' health insurance plans through age 29. Previously, dependent children were only eligible for dependent coverage until age 19, or until age 25 if the child was a full-time student. Now, status as a full-time student no longer is a consideration for dependent coverage.

The expanded coverage only applies to BCBSAZ's individual under 65 health plans and is effective immediately.

There are approximately 879,000 Arizonans between the ages of 19 and 29. Of that group, approximately 184,000 -- or more than 20 percent -- are uninsured and single.

"Many young people today are taking more time to complete their education or are living with parents longer before striking out on their own," said Rich Boals, president and CEO of BCBSAZ. "By expanding the age parameters of dependent coverage on our individual under 65 products, we are offering parents a means to provide coverage for their adult-age children through age 29 by keeping them on their existing family policies as eligible dependents," he said.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, on average, first-time recipients of bachelor's degrees in 1999-2000 who had not stopped taking classes for six months or more took about 55 months from first enrollment to degree completion. Graduates who had attended multiple institutions took even longer to complete a degree. Those who attended only one institution averaged 51 months between postsecondary entry and completion of a bachelor's degree, compared with 59 months for those who attended two institutions and 67 months for those who attended three or more institutions.

Research conducted on 19- to 29-year-olds in Arizona in 2005 by WestGroup Research indicated that this age group is less likely than the general population to have group coverage and more likely to be uninsured. Yet, in the same study, 75 percent of uninsured respondents indicated that they considered health insurance "very important."

"Modest income levels for those just entering the workforce combined with an increase in average debt load for recent college graduates may lead some young people to think that health insurance is a luxury they can't afford," said Boals. "This extension of our benefits for unmarried, dependent children of insured members of our individual under 65 products provides an affordable alternative to adding the cost of an individual policy to their existing debt load."

Affordability is an important factor for 19- to 29-year-olds. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, on average, students who graduated in the 2003-2004 school year had more than $19,000 in debt, adjusted for inflation, in comparison to about $12,000 for students who graduated in the 1992-1993 school year.

About Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, is the largest Arizona-based health insurance company. The not-for-profit company was founded in 1939 and provides health insurance products, services or networks to more than 1.3 million individuals. With offices in Phoenix, Flagstaff, Tempe and Tucson, the company employs more than 1,500 Arizonans. For information about Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona and its community programs such as WalkingWorks, please visit www.azblue.com.

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