New Study Finds that Improved Coverage for Young Adults Has Increased Access to Care

One of the most highly touted provisions of the Affordable Care Act has been the new requirement that health plans allow young adults – up to age 26 – to stay on their parents’ health plan. The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has estimated that more than three million young adults gained coverage between September 2010 and December 2011. There is now even stronger evidence of the benefits of this provision, thanks to a study out this week in the journal Health Affairs.

The study, led by Benjamin Sommers, a senior advisor at HHS and assistant professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, finds that not only has the ACA helped young people access insurance, but it has helped increase their access to care, resulting in significant reductions in the number of young adults who delayed getting care and in those who didn’t receive needed care because of the cost. Some findings from the study worth noting:

Coverage Gains

  • Coverage among people ages 19-25 increased by 4.7% more than among a control group of people ages 26-34.
  • Coverage was up across the board for young adults, but men seem to have gained more than women, with coverage up 8.2%, compared to 4.9% for women. This is in part due to Medicaid, but also because women are more likely to be full-time students in this age cohort.
  • Unmarried adults were more likely to get coverage than married adults. This is likely because married people have more options for accessing coverage, such as through a spouse.
  • Coverage gains were higher for nonstudents than students, likely due to the fact that many pre-existing state laws already required plans to allow students to stay on their parents’ policies. In addition, many colleges and universities offer relatively inexpensive student coverage.
  • Young adults with health conditions experienced significant increases in coverage shortly after implementation of buy Autodesk AutoCAD Plant 3D 2017 the law, with a 6.1% effect for people in fair or poor health, compared to a 2.9% effect for those in very good health. However, these differences appear to have leveled off after the first six months of implementation, perhaps because people with health problems were the fastest to sign up.

Improved Access to Care

  • Adults between ages 19-25 were less likely to report that they delayed getting or did not obtain care because of cost after the law was implemented.
  • In addition, these young adults were more likely to report that they had a usual source of care, compared to before the law was implemented.

We often hear ACA opponents say that people don’t need health insurance to get access to health care – they can always go to an emergency room.  Yet in study after study, this one being the most recent, we see that access to coverage leads directly to better access to care. The ACA helped extend coverage for young adults in 2010 and will do the same for all Americans in 2014. Stay tuned to CHIRblog for updates on ACA implementation and how it’s impacting access to coverage and care for individuals and families.

The opinions expressed here are solely those of the individual blog post authors and do not represent the views of Georgetown University, the Center on Health Insurance Reforms, any organization that the author is affiliated with, or the opinions of any other author who publishes on this blog.