Starting as soon as June 1, 2009, employers will have extended obligations to their employees' dependent children. Employed parents will be able to decide whether to extend their group health insurance coverage to their children up to age 26, and veterans will be able to remain covered by their parent’s group health insurance plan until age 30.

The Illinois General Assembly recently accepted Governor Rod Blagojevich’s amendatory veto, creating two new provisions of the Illinois Insurance Code. The new provisions require group and individual health insurance policies covering plan beneficiaries in Illinois to cover unmarried dependents until they reach age 26. This coverage is available regardless of whether the dependent is enrolled at an educational institution. The new provisions also require coverage for dependents up to age 30 if the dependent is a veteran and has not been dishonorably discharged.

If the employer provides dependent coverage to its workforce in Illinois, the employer will be required to provide the coverage specified under the new law. If the extended dependent coverage is elected, no new exclusions or limitations may be applied to the coverage. For example, an employer's group health insurance policy cannot exclude pre-existing conditions of dependents seeking the extended coverage unless the policy previously excluded pre-existing conditions for all dependents.

The change in coverage applies to any policies amended, delivered, issued or renewed after June 1, 2009. Employers must provide a 90-day period for employees to enroll the dependent under an existing policy. If an employer maintains a calendar year plan, the change is not effective until January 1, 2010.

The employer is not required to pay for the additional coverage and employers' health plans may require employees electing the extended dependant coverage to pay for it in full. Further, not all employers will be required to make this change. Employers whose health benefits are either self-insured or provided under a health insurance policy written outside Illinois and covering employees outside the state will not have to make the change.