The Affordable Care Act provides health coverage to 7.8 million young adults

The Affordable Care Act has offered more than 7.8 million young adults health coverage. Most of these adults wouldn’t have been able to receive coverage before the reform of the law’s dependent coverage provision. 

According to the latest Commonwealth Fund survey, only 27 percent of young adults in the U.S. said that they knew about the state health insurance marketplaces which are going to be launched this October.

The report, titled ‘Covering Young Adults Under the Affordable Care Act: The Importance of Outreach and Medicaid Expansion’, revealed that two thirds of young adults (ages 19 to 29) would accept health insurance benefits offered by an employer.

Employer-sponsored family health premiums have increased by 4 percent this year, exceeding $16,000 for the first time ever. 

Among those who did not enroll in any employer health plan, only five percent refused health coverage because they felt it was unnecessary, 54 percent refused because they were covered by their parents or partner, and 22 percent could not afford the premium.

Commonwealth Fund vice president Sara Collins, the study’s lead author, said:

“There is a stereotype that young adults believe they are ‘invincible’ and don’t want or need health insurance. This survey shows that is a myth – a typical uninsured young adult is from a low- or middle-income family and works a low-wage job. In general, young adults value health insurance but cannot afford it.”

The authors noted that “as young adults and their families became aware of the provision allowing them to remain on their families’ insurance policies, uptake increased, from 13.7 million enrolled young adults in November 2011 to 15 million in March 2013.”

The number of uninsured adults has dropped to 15.7 million – from 18.1 million two years ago – and the majority of young adults who are uninsured are low or middle income.

Low- middle- income young adults are at highest risk of being uninsured

An overwhelming 82 percent of young adults who have been uninsured sometime this year are from low or middle income households, even though subsidized coverage through either Medicaid or the marketplace is available for them.

Young adults who are at the highest risk of not being insured are those who are not aware of their eligibility of subsidized insurance or because their state has not expanded Medicaid – there are 25 states that may not expand Medicaid eligibility.

There will be millions of young low-income adults without health insurance if their state decides not to expand Medicaid.


Medicaid coverage 2014

States in blue are expanding Medicaid coverage in 2014

Ironically, those who would benefit the most from the new health insurance marketplaces happen to also be the least likely to know they exist.

Under 20 percent of uninsured or low income adults knew about the marketplaces.

Commonwealth Fund president David Blumenthal, M.D, concluded:

“The Affordable Care Act has the potential to expand health insurance coverage to millions of low- and middle-income young adults, who have continually struggled to afford the health insurance they need. Ensuring that all Americans are able to take advantage of the Affordable Care Act would require that states expand Medicaid and dedicate sufficient resources to educate their populations about the law’s new coverage options.”