Legal Brief: Michelle's Law and Health Insurance for College Students

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“Legal Briefs” appears in e-Inside monthly to keep faculty and staff informed of legal issues and their implications. Content is provided by the Office of the University Counsel, whose mission is to ensure high-quality legal services to Kent State University in a timely, cost-effective manner, to reduce litigation and to ensure legal compliance. An archive of Legal Briefs is available online.

Last fall, before the passage of the health care reform bill, new legislation was enacted that impacts families who provide health insurance for a dependent college student. Michelle’s Law, which took effect in October 2009, was named after Michelle Morse, a college student who had cancer. Against the advice of doctors, Morse continued her course load in college so she could to retain her health insurance coverage.

Michelle's Law provides that a group health plan provider may not terminate a dependent college student's health coverage simply because the child takes a necessary medical leave of absence from school or changes to part-time status because of a medical condition. Under the law, the leave of absence must:

  • Be medically necessary;
  • Begin while the child is suffering from a serious illness or injury; and
  • Cause the child to lose coverage under the plan.

To take advantage of the extension, the child must have been enrolled in the group health plan on the basis of being a student at a post-secondary educational institution immediately before the first day of the leave. If this condition is met, coverage is extended for one year after the first day of the leave (or, if earlier, the date coverage would otherwise terminate under the plan). The student is entitled to the same benefits as if they had not taken a leave. If coverage changes during the student's leave, then this new law applies in the same manner as the prior coverage.

Written certification from the child's physician must be provided. The certification must state that the child is suffering from a serious illness or injury, and that the leave (or change to a part-time enrollment status) is medically necessary.

Kent State employees who have coverage from one of the university’s medical providers should contact the Benefits Office at 330-672-3107 or if you have questions about Michelle’s Law.

Information contained in the Legal Briefs was accurate at the date of publication. For an update on any of the topics listed here, contact the Office of University Counsel at 330-672-2982 or .

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