Number of insured young adults increases significantly after ACA

February 26, 2013

The Affordable Care Act is expected to increase the number of insured Americans by more than 30 million by the time it’s fully implemented, but one provision of the act already has resulted in the addition of an estimated 3 million insured.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is expected to increase the number of insured Americans by more than 30 million by the time it’s fully implemented, but one provision of the act has already resulted in the addition of an estimated 3 million insured.

Young adults, who typically were dropped from their parents’ insurance plans around the age of 19 before the ACA, have been able to take advantage of an ACA provision that allowed them to remain on their parents’ policies until age 26 since September 2010. One estimate places the overall impact of this provision at about 3 million uninsured young adults gaining coverage between September 2010 and December 2011, according to a new report published in Health Affairs.

The ultimate goal of the provision was to increase coverage to young adults and to improve their access to care. Historically, the report notes, people in their early 20s had the lowest rate of insurance coverage of any group, with people aged 19 to 25 years roughly 6% less likely to be covered than those aged 26 to 35 years in 2005.

After the ACA provision took effect in 2010, the 19-to-25 age group’s overall coverage rates increased significantly, whereas the 26-to-35 age group experienced little change, leading the report authors to conclude that the implementation of the ACA provision was the cause of the increase. Overall coverage among the younger adult age group increased by about 4.7% more than the older group, and the chance of having private insurance coverage among the younger group increased by 5.1% more than the older group.

Gains in insurance coverage were greater among men in the 19-to-25 age group (8.2%) than women (4.9%), and larger gains occurred for unmarried young adults as well. Non-students were twice as likely to gain coverage than students, who already could be covered under their parents’ insurance policies to a higher age.

Young adults in poor health were the most likely to take advantage of the new provision. Those in poor health were 6.1% more likely to gain coverage through the provision, whereas only about 2% of those in excellent health took advantage of the offering. This group also took advantage of the provision’s benefits sooner, rapidly signing on to their parents’ insurance policies in the first six months of the new policy. Months later, use of the new policy was more balanced among all health status subgroups within the 19 to 25 age group, the report notes.

In terms of access to care, study authors found that the new policy reduced the chance that a person aged 19 to 25 years delayed getting care by 4% and lowered the chances that a person skipped needed care altogether because of cost by 2.3%. More young adults in this age group also reported having a usual source of care after the law took effect, the report notes.

The provision has also resulted in better coverage and more freedom for young adults than if they had coverage on their own, the study notes. By qualifying to remain on their parents’ insurance plans, young adults are feed from “job lock,” in which they stay at a job with little benefit to them simply to maintain coverage. Additionally, insurance obtained through their parents’ policies is typically more comprehensive than what they might receive on their own, resulting in better financial protection and access to care, the report states.

 

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