A bill that would allow adult children to add their dependent parents to their health insurance policies passed the Assembly Health Committee earlier this week in a 10-2 vote, moving it to face a critical Appropriations Committee vote sometime in May.
Assembly Bill 570, authored by Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), would not have an age requirement for parents who want to join their children’s insurance. Rather, they would need to prove that they rely on their children for at least 50% support, as per the IRS definition of a dependent.
Should the bill pass, parents could join their children’s insurance as early as January 2022.
Assemblyman Santiago wrote AB 570, also known as the Parent Healthcare Act, to give healthcare coverage to more Californians following the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically targeting those who do not qualify for Medicare and for those who cannot afford health insurance. This would largely include “mixed status” immigrant families where the children are legal citizens, but their illegal immigrant parents are not.
“Health care access for seniors was already an issue pre COVID-19, but now we see an even more urgent need,” said Assemblyman Santiago. “Millions of Californians have lost healthcare coverage. AB 570 will provide health coverage to more Californians by ensuring dependent parents, including undocumented immigrants, are covered. This will save working families a significant amount each year.”
Supporters of the bill, such as state Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, have backed up Santiago’s reasonings, but have also added that many families have faced increased financial burdens when taking in a parent who is mostly dependent on them, with job loss and lost health care access due to the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbating the issue since last year.
“When we needed care as children, our parents were always there for us. Now that our parents need care, we should be able to add them to our health coverage,” said Commissioner Lara in a statement last month. “Health insurance for young adults caring for dependent parents can be extremely costly if they become sick or lose their health coverage. The Parent Healthcare Act will save money for many California families, especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic when so many people have lost their jobs and access to health care is even more crucial. By allowing adult children to add their dependent parents to their health insurance policies, this legislation will help to increase access to affordable health care.”
Questions linger for many over AB 570
However, AB 570 has also received a fair amount of opposition since it was introduced earlier this year. Many have called out the bill for not giving an accurate number of how many parents may join their children’s insurance if the bill is passed. Estimates by the California Health Benefits Review Program currently show the number would be between 20,000 and 80,000 parents, a figure that is too wide to accurately predict how much that would cost employers.
Both Republicans and Democrats were unsure of the bill despite passing it 10-2 because of the open question of just how much it would cost employers and employees to include parents under their coverage.
“I’m torn. I think the bill is likely to increase health care access and may offer affordable coverage options,” explained Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa) on Tuesday. “But I feel like there may be more work that needs to be done here to figure out what the cost increase means to employers and ultimately employees.”
Some employers were a lot more blunt about the prospects of the bill passing on Thursday.
“I know there is a lot of need out there, and I know there is a similar thing for kids being on their parents insurance until 26, but this hasn’t been done before,” said Donnie Lopez, a Los Angeles-area lawn service owner whose business include many employees who have undocumented parents, to the Globe on Thursday. “But we’re not even seeing a rough estimate on the costs. And that can be a lot depending on many factors. We should know going in how much it is going to hit businesses, and our employees, first before they really start deciding on to pass this or not.
“I mean, whose to say that some of their parents who are still in Mexico or Guatemala or elsewhere might come up to California to take advantage of it too?
“We just need to really know more about this before we start to decide on it.”
AB 570 will next go before the Assembly Appropriations Committee sometime next month.