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3.1 Million Young Adults Gained Coverage Through Health Care Reform: HHS

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

June 20, 2012
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More than 3 million young adults have gained health insurance due to a health care reform law provision that requires employers to extend coverage to employees' adult children up to age 26, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said June 19.

Since the provision first took effect on Sept. 23, 2010, 74.8 percent of young adults 19 through 25 years old were insured through December 2011, up from 64.4 percent in September 2010. That 10.4 percentage-point increase represents 3.1 million additional young adults who now have health insurance, HHS said when releasing a survey by its National Center for Health Statistics unit.

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

For example, in the next age bracket—individuals age 26 through 35—the percentage with health insurance during the same period was virtually unchanged at about 72 percent, HHS said.

"Today, because of the health care law, more than 3 million more young adults have health insurance," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. "This policy doesn't just give young adults and their families peace of mind, it also gives them freedom. It means that as they begin their careers, they will be free to make choices based on what they want to do, not on where they can get health insurance," Sebelius added.

The young-adult provision, which became effective Jan. 1, 2011, 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, putting an end to common coverage requirements such as college enrollment, financial dependency or residency with a parent.

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

While definitive statistics are not available, consultants and employers said earlier that cost increases resulting from covering more young adults have been modest, typically ranging from just under 0.5 percent to 1.5 percent.

The expansion has been extremely popular among employees. For example, if the health care reform law is overturned, 59 percent of benefit professionals responding to a surveyreleased earlier this month by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans said employees would want Congress to pass legislation reinstating the age 26 coverage mandate.

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

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