Congress OKs Extending Health Coverage for Ill Students

By Staff Report

Sep. 29, 2008

Congress has given final approval to legislation to allow seriously ill college students to continue coverage under their parents’ health insurance plans even if they can’t maintain status as full-time students.

The measure—which the Senate cleared without opposition Thursday, September 25, after House approval earlier this year—would allow college students to retain coverage for up to 12 months after they take a leave of absence. Coverage would continue on the same basis as before the student went on leave.

The legislation is modeled after a 2006 New Hampshire law known as “Michelle’s Law,” which was named for Michelle Morse, a Manchester, New Hampshire college student who continued her studies while battling cancer to maintain health insurance coverage. Morse died in 2005.

The New Hampshire law applies only to fully insured policies offered by commercial insurers and health maintenance organizations because of federal pre-emption of state laws that relate to employee benefit plans. The federal legislation, though, would apply to both insured and self-insured plans.

President Bush is expected to sign the measure.

Filed by Jerry Geisel of Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail

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