Millions Of Young Adults On Parents Health Care Plans
June 8, 2012

Millions Of Young Adults On Parents Health Care Plans

A new report has found that 13.7 million young adults stayed on or joined their parents' health care plans in 2011.

The Commonwealth Fund report said that half of the 13.7 million young adults who stayed on or joined their parents' health plans are likely gaining coverage because of the provision in the Affordable Care Act, which requires that health plans include dependent coverage insure children until age 26.

Young adults in low-income households were most at risk for remaining uninsured, according to the report. It found that 70 percent of young adults with incomes under 133 percent of poverty had a gap in coverage in 2011, which is more than three times the rate of those with incomes over 400 percent of poverty.

Thirty-nine percent of young adults between the ages 19 to 29 went without health insurance at some time in 2011, and more than 36 percent had medical bill problems or were paying off medical debt, according to the report.

The Commonwealth Fund said 43 percent of those who reported problems with medical bills reported that they used all of their savings. Thirty-two percent of the same group reported they were unable to make student loan payments, while 28 percent said they were unable to pay for necessities like food, heat, or rent.

"While the Affordable Care Act has already provided a new source of coverage for millions of young adults at risk of being uninsured, more help is needed for those left behind," Commonwealth Fund Vice President Sara Collins, lead author of the report, said in a statement.

The report said over a third of all young adults at age 19 are coping with medical bill burdens, and 70 percent of that group reported financial consequences like using up their savings or being unable to meet other debt obligations.

A quarter of young adults who were paying off medical debt owed $4,000 or more, and 15 percent reported owing $8,000 or more in debt.

"The law's major insurance provisions slated for 2014, including expanded Medicaid and subsidized private plans through state insurance exchanges, will provide nearly all young adults across the income spectrum with affordable and comprehensive health plans," Collins said in the press release.

The report suggests that young adults are more likely to enroll in health plans when new affordable options become available under the Affordable Care Act in 2014.

Nearly two-thirds of working young adults age 19 who were eligible for coverage through their jobs enrolled in their employers' health plans. The main reasons for not taking up employer coverage included being covered under a parent's or spouse's policy or not being able to afford the coverage.

"Clearly, young adults recognize the value of health insurance that provides protection against burdensome medical debt and access to needed health care," Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis said in a press release. "The Affordable Care Act will provide all Americans with affordable coverage, and help young adults achieve healthy, productive, and financially secure futures."

The results come at the time of heated presidential campaigns, with the Republican side mostly shying away from a national healthcare plan, and the democratic side pushing for it. It has been a subject of debate between both President Barack Obama's campaign and Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

The survey was completed by 1,863 respondents, yielding a 54 percent completion rate among sample respondents. The respondents were picked through a probability-based online panel that represents the U.S. population, and includes cell-phone only and low-income households that are difficult to reach through traditional surveys and random digit dialing sampling.