It appears that young adults are becoming more aware of their health insurance coverage more than a year after the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.
An estimated 13.7 million young adults between the ages of 19 and 25 have stayed on or joined their parents’ health plans since the law went to effect, according to a survey conducted by the Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based private foundation that supports health care coverage.
The 13.7 million that stayed or joined between November 2010 and November 2011 included 6.6 million young adults who likely would not have been able to do so prior to the passage of the law, the survey showed. The new law requires insurance plans that include dependent coverage to cover adult children until their 26th birthdays.
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, said Commonwealth Fund Vice President Sara Collins and lead author of the report.
Of the 1,863 survey respondents, 60% said they did not get health care because of cost and half reported problems paying medical bills or said they were paying off medical debt over time.
The survey found that nearly two of five (39%) young adults ages 19 to 29 were without health insurance for all or part of 2011.
Young adults in low- and moderate-income households–considered to be those least likely to have access to parents’ plans–were the most at risk, according to the survey.
Overall, two of five (41%) young adults said they had not gotten health care because of cost in the past year; the rate rose to 60% among uninsured young adults. More than one-third (36%) of all young adults reported problems paying medical bills or said they were paying off medical debt over time; the rate was 51% among uninsured young adults.
Among young adults who reported problems paying medical bills or said they were paying off medical debt, 43% said they had used up all their savings to pay their bills, 33% took on credit card debt, 32% had been unable to meet other debt obligations such as school loans or tuition payments, 31% delayed education or career plans, and 28% said they had been unable to pay for basic necessities like food or rent.
Nearly six of 10 (59%) young adults ages 19 to 25 were aware that that they could stay on or join their parents’ plans.
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether the increase in coverage for young adults will pose an opportunity for credit union employees.
Roughly two-thirds of credit unions provide some type of health insurance to employees. One-third of credit unions with health care plans reported making changes for 2010, according to CUNA’s “Credit Union Staff Benefits Report 2010,” the latest data on record.
Among credit unions that made changes to reduce their 2010 health care plan costs, 41% increased employee cost-sharing for health care coverage, 37% increased or enhanced communications to employee on health issues, 34% studied health care data for cost of utilization patterns and 32% added use of their wellness program.
Most credit unions that changed their 2010 plan increased the deductibles, employee cost-sharing of premium costs and co-payments. Among credit unions that made changes, about 45% increase employee deductibles for single coverage and family coverage, while 34% increase employee contributions to the annual premium for single and family coverage, said the CUNA report.
Also, roughly 30% increased co-payments for prescription drug coverage, office visits and emergency room visits. About 10% to 15% changed insurance providers, changed the type of health insurance plan offered to employees, and set up health reimbursement accounts.
“Clearly, young adults recognize the value of health insurance that provides protection against burdensome medical debt and access to needed health care,” said Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis. “The Affordable Care Act will provide all Americans with affordable coverage, and help young adults achieve healthy, productive and financially secure futures.”