Rethinking Healthcare

What Obama's healthcare act has meant so far for young adults

What Obama's healthcare act has meant so far for young adults

Posting in Healthcare

Two in five young American adults remain uninsured, but nearly 7 million more young adults received coverage in 2011 due to extensions in their parents' health insurance.

Nearly two in five young American adults lacked health insurance in 2011, according to a report out today from the private health research foundation The Commonwealth Fund. That puts this uninsured blogger in sizable company.

For my peers under 26, U.S. president Obama's health insurance plan offered some relief. The Affordable Care Act pushed health insurance companies to cover employees' young adult children beginning in 2010. That added 6.6 million people to the number of those insured in 2011.

But, more than one-third of Americans ages 19 to 29 still had medical bill problems or were paying off medical debt.

The report's numbers were worse for those with low incomes. Seventy percent of young adults earning less than $14,484 annually lacked coverage at some point in the year. And, according to the report, "Only 17 percent of young adults ages 19 in low-income families stayed on or joined their parents' plans, compared with 69 percent of young adults in the highest income households."

Rob Hiltonsmith of PolicyMic points out the common perception that young people opt out of health coverage because they feel invincible. He interprets the growth in the number of insured young adults since the inception of the Affordable Care Act as a strong counterargument to that idea, and I would agree with him. I and many of my peers remain uninsured because we can't stomach the cost premiums, not out of youthful flippancy.

If the Affordable Care Act remains in its current state, 2014 should bring near universal coverage for all American young adults. While I'm wary of how much of that will force me to spend on insurance, I have to admit I'll feel a bit of relief to no longer have the option of remaining anxiously uninsured.

Graphic: The Commonwealth Fund

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Audrey Quinn

Contributing Writer

Audrey Quinn is a Brooklyn-based multimedia journalist focused on health, tech and the economy. Her radio stories can be heard on Marketplace, Studio 360, PRI's The World, NPR's Latino USA, Deutsche Welle Radio and The Believer Magazine podcast. In addition to her work with CBS Interactive she produces multimedia science stories for online publications and is a teaching assistant at the Transom Story Workshop. Her investigative work has been awarded by the Fund for Investigative Journalism and The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure