April 01, 2018 Insurance

Health Care at a Price: The Impact on Young Adults' Medical Privacy and Autonomy of Being Covered on Their Parent's Health Insurance Until Age Twenty-Six

By: Valerie K. Blake and Jessica A. Haught

Rebecca is a twenty-four-year-old woman who lives with her fiancé in a home they purchased together. A psychiatrist has recently diagnosed her with depression and has recommended that she begin a course of medication and therapy. Rebecca is a private person who does not plan on speaking about this with anyone except perhaps her fiancé. Yet, several weeks into her treatment, Rebecca receives a call from her mother asking why she has been going to see a psychiatrist. Her parents are upset because she did not tell them about the diagnosis and because they think the therapy is unnecessary and expensive. They are pressuring her to move back home because they are worried about her well-being. Rebecca feels ambushed and embarrassed— how did her parents find out about her private healthcare matters?

Rebecca’s parents were alerted to these services by the Explanation of Benefits documents sent by the health insurer. These documents detailed the dates and times of Rebecca’s services, the type of care, and the provider’s name. Even though Rebecca is financially independent from her family, is no longer a student, and is not living with her parents, Rebecca is covered by her parents’ health plan until the age of twenty-six as allowed under a provision of the Affordable Care Act. Remaining on her parents’ plan has been a lifesaver for Rebecca because she does not receive health insurance benefits through her job and would be unable to afford these healthcare services out of pocket. Now, she regrets her decision to seek any services, and she certainly would not have done so if she knew her family would find out. She did not want her family to find out about her depression diagnosis and certainly not in this manner.

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