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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Young adults: No longer stranded

Kate Blocher

Staff Writer

Many are aware that young people stand to gain from the new health reform law, but what they may not know is just how many young adults will benefit.

The Commonwealth Fund recently published an issue brief that documents the critical problem of the growing numbers of uninsured young adults and how they stand to gain tremendously from the enactment of health reform. According to the report:

Young adults between the ages of 19 and 29 represent one of the largest segments of the U.S. population without health insurance.... [They] are disproportionately represented among people who lack health insurance, accounting for 30 percent of the 46 million uninsured people under age 65, even though they comprise just 17 percent of the population.

The group’s numbers end up totaling close to 14 million, up from less than 11 million in 2000. However, it is likely that this figure underestimates the true problem as unemployment has soared over the last few years, “reaching 17.2 percent among 20–24-year-olds and certainly increasing the number of young adults without health insurance,” which means the passage of reform could not have come sooner. Many of these young adults will gain coverage when the law goes into full effect in 2014 — either through Medicaid or by purchasing private insurance through the newly implemented exchanges.

According to the report, 7.1 million of the uninsured young adults, well over half, will gain coverage once the Medicaid expansion takes place in 2014 since their incomes fall below 133 percent of the federal poverty level. In addition, up to 5.6 million uninsured young adults will be eligible to receive sliding- scale subsidies to help them buy private health coverage through the insurance exchanges, also implemented in 2014.

However, for 1.2 million young adults, relief from the worries of where to find insurance will come much sooner than 2014. These are the young adults whose parents have health coverage but who fell off the family plan when they graduated from high school or college. The new health reform law provides young adults under the age of 26 the option to stay on their family plan beginning in September 2010.

Under health reform, beginning in September 2010, most insurance plans that offer dependant coverage for children must extend coverage to adult children who meet specific eligibility requirements. However, many health plans are voluntarily offering young adults this opportunity now. This will be especially beneficial to those graduating from college or high school in the coming weeks.

Families USA has just released a new fact sheet, Health Coverage for Young Adults: Health Reform Will Soon Allow You to Stay on Your Parent’s Health Plan, which answers important questions that both young adults and their parents may have about the right to stay in—or to get back into—a parent’s health plan. The fact sheet covers issues such as: Who qualifies; when does this provision go into effect; how can consumers learn about plans that are voluntarily allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ coverage right now; and what options do young adults have until September to maintain their coverage.

Health coverage might not be on recent graduates’ minds now, but nobody ever plans to get sick and few young people are able to save up ahead of time to afford medical bills in case of an accident. With the new health reform law, young adults finally have access to affordable, quality insurance, which not only gives peace of mind to them, but to their families, as well.