Almost 1 Million Young Adults Get Health Insurance

The rise in young adults comes as older Americans lose health insurance.

ByABC News
September 21, 2011, 6:53 PM

Sept. 24, 2011 -- Almost 1 million young adults have signed on to new health insurance policies, government statistics released Wednesday show. Government officials credit the new federal health care law for making that possible.

The rise in young adults 19 to 25 with insurance comes as older Americans are losing their health insurance as the economic crisis continues.

"We feel quite confident in attributing virtually all of the change to the provisions in the Affordable Care Act," said Rick Kronick, deputy secretary for health policy for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

As of September 2010, the Affordable Care Act allowed young adults up to the age of 26 to remain on their parents' health insurance plans. Previously, adult children could stay on their parents' plans only if they remained in college or lived in a state with laws similar to the Affordable Care Act. HHS estimated that 650,000 people would sign up for the new coverage.

However, through the end of March, the number of young adults ages 19 to 25 with health insurance rose by about 900,000 or 3.5 percent, from the same period in 2010, according to records from the National Center for Health Statistics.

The same report shows that the percentage of all adult Americans with health insurance increased from 77.7 percent to 78.5 percent in the same period, a change attributed to the rise in young adults with insurance.

Other recent studies by government and independent groups show the same trend.

An independent Gallup survey released Wednesday showed that insurance for young adults jumped from 71 percent in the first quarter of 2010 to 75 percent in the second quarter of 2011, which ended in June. Also, a U.S. Census Bureau report this month showed that insurance for young adults rose by two percent from 2010 to 2011.

The number of older Americans without insurance keeps growing as the economy stagnates, Kronick said, but the number of younger adults with insurance rose just as the law took effect.

Health care providers should see fewer unpaid bills because of this trend, he said, and that should cause everyone's insurance premiums to drop. At the same time, insurance costs for employers could rise about 3.4 percent, he said.

HHS officials led by Secretary Kathleen Sebelius focused Wednesday on how the law helps young people: If they become ill while going to college, they don't have to worry about losing their insurance if they must drop out of classes. If they have pre-existing conditions, such as asthma or diabetes, they may remain on their parents' insurance until a provision in the health care law kicks in that prohibits insurers from denying coverage based on a person's health. And young people can take jobs at a start-up rather than take a job with benefits.