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Michelle's Law

Posted by Andrew Chan  September 1, 2009 10:00 AM

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On October 9, 2009, Michelle’s Law (H.R. 2851) goes into effect. Passed on October 8, 2008 by President Bush, Michelle’s Law allows full-time college students to take a medical leave of absence without losing the health insurance coverage they receive as a dependent under their parent’s health insurance plan. Prior to the passage of this law, students between ages 19 and 24 could receive coverage under their parent’s health insurance policy, as a dependent, as long as they remained a full-time student. Students who lost their full-time status due to illness or injury were left with the choice of going without coverage under their parent’s plan (because they no longer qualified as a full-time student) or to continue coverage under COBRA, which could be prohibitively expensive for many families. This law prevents the loss of coverage under those situations.

Michelle’s Law was created based on the predicament faced by Michelle Morse. Michelle was a full-time college student who was diagnosed with cancer while attending college in New Hampshire. As Michelle went through chemotherapy treatments, her physician recommended that she reduce her full-time course work at school to deal with the debilitating treatments. However, doing so would cause her to lose her health insurance coverage because her family could not afford the premiums under COBRA. Faced with this no-win situation, Michelle decided to maintain her full-time status. Michelle passed away as result of her battle with cancer. To ensure that other students would not have to go through what Michelle did, Michelle’s family took the issue to their state’s legislature, who passed a law protecting students like Michelle. Other states followed and in 2008 President Bush signed it into federal law.

Here are the details about Michelle’s Law:
- The law applies to full-time students who are covered as dependents by their parent’s health insurance.

- Students are allowed to take up to 12 months off for a “medically necessary” leave of absence without losing their coverage. This also applies to students who reduce their course work to a less than full-time status because of medical necessity.

- In order for this law to apply, the leave of absence, reduction in course work, or change in full-time status must:
* Be medically necessary as determined by the student’s physician;
* Commence while the student is suffering from the illness or injury; and
* Cause the student to lose their dependent health insurance coverage.

For more information about Michelle’s Law visit

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D. Abraham Ringer is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER practitioner and a Financial Adviser with Morgan Stanley Global Wealth Management in Boston. He is registered in MA, NH, NY and several other states to which his articles are directed. For more information please visit
Financial Planning Association™ of Massachusetts has 900 members who specialize in the financial planning process. Many of its members engage in philanthropic pro bono work in their communities, recommend legislation, elevate public awareness, promote financial literacy, and advocate for sound economic and tax policies.
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