Young adults grab coverage opportunity

February 1, 2012

The healthcare overhaul has allowed 2.5 million young adults to gain insurance coverage under their parents' plans, a figure that is more than double previous estimates.

WASHINGTON-The healthcare overhaul has allowed 2.5 million young adults to gain insurance coverage under their parents' plans, a figure that is more than double previous estimates.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says the increased coverage of 19- to 25-year-olds is directly attributable to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's (PPACA) new dependent coverage provision that took effect in September 2010. Initial reports estimated 1 million young adults had gained coverage.

According to analysts, nearly 36% of those ages 19 to 25-about 10.5 million people-were uninsured in the third quarter of 2010. By the second quarter of 2011, just over 27% of them-or 8 million people-were uninsured.

Young adults represent the largest group of uninsured people, and they have the lowest rate of access to employer-based insurance, according to a White House document. While they don't typically require expensive procedures, one in six young adults has a chronic illness such as cancer, diabetes or asthma, the report states.

Previously, young adults who attended college full time were eligible to remain on their parents' plan. However, questions arose about how to define a full-time student.

"What if they're only there one hour a week and working 40 hours a week at the loading dock," Keckley says.

Under PPACA, young adults can work full time and elect not to participate in their employers' plan in favor of remaining on their parents' family plan. They also are eligible even if they are married and living elsewhere.

Benefits in this age group center on contraception, immunizations, mental health issues, and "bone-headed guys who do stupid, risky stuff," Keckley says. "Relative to family coverage, it's not an expensive product."