Young adults make up 24% of current Obamacare enrollees

January 13, 2014

Officials hope to increase the proportion of young adults buying plans before the March 31 open enrollment deadline.

About 2.2 million people have enrolled in health coverage through the federal and state exchange marketplaces and nearly a quarter of them are young adults, said Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a recent telephone briefing.

According to a new report, which details the first demographic information about enrollees, 24% of those that had signed up by the end of the third reporting period for open enrollment on Dec. 28, 2013 were between the ages of 18 and 34. A demographic often referred to as “young invincibles,” enrollment of young adults is vital to the long-term survival of the exchanges. In addition to those who have signed up for coverage through the exchanges, Sebelius says that about 3 million young adults have gained coverage through the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) provision which allows them to stay on their parents' plan until age 26. 

The report also shows that enrollment in December was seven times greater than the combined total for the months of October and November, as well as eight times greater for young adults ages 18 to 34. More than 9 million people have gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act, officials now estimate.

While officials say they are satisfied with the numbers, they hope to increase the proportion of young adults buying plans before the March 31 open enrollment deadline. HHS spokeswoman Julie Bataille says administration outreach efforts would be widened over the next few months, and will include television advertising during Winter Olympic Games coverage in February.

A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation downplayed concerns that low enrollment of young adults might lead to a "death spiral." It stated that under a worst-case scenario in which only 25% of enrollees are age 18 to 34, insurers would have to raise premiums by 2.5% in 2015.

“There has been a lot of attention to the mix of individuals signing up for coverage so at the end of the day we have a balanced insurance pool,” says Mike Hash, director of the HHS Office of Health Reform. “The trend is suggestive of an appropriate mix in the marketplace. We are only halfway through and we expect an increase in the proportion of young adults as we go forward.”

Other key findings:

  • Nearly 1.8 million people selected a plan in December.

  • The top five states for enrollment are California (498,794), Florida (158,030), New York (156,902), Texas (118,532) and North Carolina (107,778).

Of the enrollees:

  • 54% are female and 46% are male;

  • 30% are age 34 and under;

  • 60% selected a Silver plan, while 20% selected a Bronze plan, 30% bought Gold and 7% bought Platinum;  

  • Only 1% chose a Catastrophic plan; and

  • About 80% of those buying a plan qualified for a financial subsidy.

Read the full report here