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Kaiser Family Foundation Study Finds That, Contrary to Popular Belief, Young Adults Believe They Need Health Insurance

By Caitlin McNeil,


In 2011, young adults aged 19 to 34 made up roughly 38 percent of the nation’s uninsured population. While some have argued that this is because young adults, often referred to as “young invincibles,” think that they are too healthy to need health insurance, a June study by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that young adults actually think that it is important to have health insurance. Kaiser’s findings point to a different reason for lack of insurance among this population—cost.

In Kaiser’s study, more than seven out of 10 young adults aged 18 to 25 responded that health insurance is “very important to them personally to have” and that it is “something [they] need.” Furthermore, more than three-quarters of young adults surveyed believe that health insurance is worth the cost, and nearly two-thirds expressed fears of unexpected or catastrophic medical costs.

The high percentage of young adults responding that health insurance is not only something that they need, but also that it is worth the cost, indicates that feelings of invincibility or indifference may not be the root cause of high rates of uninsurance in this population. Many young adults are simply unable to afford health coverage. Lower entry-level salaries and health insurance premiums do not mesh well, leading many young adults to simply go without coverage. In addition, among people who work full time, a recent ADP study revealed that individuals under age 30 are the least likely to be eligible for job-based health insurance.

The good news is that the Affordable Care Act has already helped young adults. More than 3.1 million have gained coverage since the Affordable Care Act began allowing people up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ insurance plans. And beginning October 1, young people will have access to a variety of other health coverage options at an affordable price. Young adults who earn up to 400 percent of the poverty level ($45,960 for an individual in 2013) will be eligible for tax credits to help them pay for health coverage in the new insurance marketplaces. This means that young adults will be able to afford the health insurance that they need and want.