AB 570 Expands Dependent Coverage to Qualified Parents and Stepparents

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By Yusra Serhan

AB 570 (Santiago), as amended August 26, 2021, and as it applies to the DMHC, amends section 1399.845 and adds section 1374.1 to the Health and Safety Code to require health care service plans, issued or renewed after January 1, 2023, to make dependent coverage available to qualified parents or stepparents.

Currently, dependent coverage is only available to children added to their parent’s health care plans. This bill expands the definition of “dependent” to parents and stepparents who meet the definition of qualifying relative under section 152(d), Title 26 of the United States Code, and who live in the health care plan’s service area. This includes dependent parents who are undocumented immigrants. According to the author, this bill will save working families significant costs and expand health care access across California.

Under current law, the Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP) only provides those with Medicare and those eligible for Medicare with health insurance counseling. This bill requires health care plans, insurers, or the California Health Benefit Exchange to provide written notice to applicants (those seeking to add a parent or stepparent as a dependent), that the HICAP provides free health insurance counseling to seniors. The newly required notice must include the specified contact information of HICAP, including the name, address, and phone number of the local HICAP program and the statewide HICAP program phone number.

According to the sponsor of the bill, allowing dependent parents of adult children to be covered in the same health insurance policy will reduce overall health care costs for the family by pooling these costs and making coverage more affordable, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Opponents argued that the bill will cause health care costs to increase, and that “the availability of Medi-Cal already provides health care coverage for these individuals,” in addition if the individuals are 65 or older, they qualify for Medicare.

AB 570 makes willful violations of the bill by health care service plans a crime. Also, the change in law does not apply to specialized health plans, Medicare supplement insurance, CHAMPUS supplement insurance, or TRICARE supplement insurance, or to hospital-only, accident-only, or specified disease insurance policies that reimburse for hospital, medical, or surgical benefits.

Governor Newsom signed AB 570 on October 4, 2021 (Chapter 468, Statutes of 2021).

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