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Feds Say 1 Million Young Adults Gain Health Insurance

A 3.5 percentage-point increase over last year represents 1 million additional young adults with insurance, the Department of Health and Human Services said in releasing results from a survey by the National Center for Health Statistics, an HHS unit.

September 21, 2011
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About 1 million young adults gained health insurance in the first quarter of 2011 due to a health care reform law provision that requires employers to extend coverage to employees' adult children up to age 26, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

During this period, 69.6 percent of young adults 19 through 25 were insured, up from 66.1 percent in 2010. That 3.5 percentage-point increase represents 1 million additional young adults with insurance, HHS said Sept. 21 in releasing results from a survey by the National Center for Health Statistics, an HHS unit.

That increase in coverage is directly attributable to the young adult coverage provision in the health care reform law, federal researchers said.

"While it is theoretically possible that the increase in insurance coverage for young adults in 2011 is due to some factor other than the Affordable Care Act, it is hard to identify a plausible alternative explanation for the increase in coverage among young adults," HHS said in the issue brief.

For all other age groups, the percentage of those covered during the same period was virtually unchanged, HHS said.

"Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, hundreds of thousands more young people have the health care coverage they need," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said.

The young-adult provision, effective Jan. 1 for employers with calendar-year plans, was one of the first Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act mandates to go into effect.

Under the reform law, the only eligibility requirement that employers can impose is that the employee's child be younger than 26. That put an end to common coverage requirements such as college enrollment, financial dependency or residency with a parent, and bumped up the age to which coverage must be extended.

Before the change in law, employers typically ended coverage at age 18 or 19, or 23 or 24 in the case of full-time college students.

On an employer basis, the extension of coverage boosted plan enrollment by 2 percent, according to a recent Mercer L.L.C. survey of nearly 900 employers.

Consultants have said previously that cost increases attributable to the provision typically have ranged from 0.5 percent to 1.5 percent.

Jerry Geisel writes for Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.

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