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HHS: Health Care Reform Law Adds Coverage for 2.5M Young Adults

An earlier National Center for Health Statistics study found that about 1 million young adults gained coverage in the first quarter this year.

December 14, 2011
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About 2.5 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 Department of Health and Human Services said Dec. 14.

Since the provision first took effect on Sept. 23, 2010, 72.7 percent of young adults 19 through 25 years old were insured through June, up from 64.4 percent in 2010. That 8.3 percentage-point increase represents 2.5 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.

"Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 2.5 million young adults don't have to live with the uncertainty of going without health insurance," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.

An earlier National Center for Health Statistics study found that about 1 million young adults gained coverage in the first quarter this year.

"The numbers announced today show a continuation of the coverage gains due to the health care reform law as students graduate from high school and college in May and June and otherwise would have lost coverage," HHS 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, putting 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.

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.

On an employer basis, the extension of coverage boosted plan enrollment by an average of 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, email editors@workforce.com.

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