New report: Many young adults still go without health insurance

Almost 40 percent of young adults ages 19 to 29 were without health insurance for all or part of 2011, according to a new report from The Commonwealth Fund.

The report, based on a survey of 1,863 people, also found that more than one in three young adults had medical bill problems or were paying off medical debt. Of those who reported such financial problems, many faced serious consequences such as using all of their savings (43 percent); being unable to make student loan or tuition payments (32 percent); delaying education or career plans (31 percent); or being unable to pay for necessities such as food, heat or rent (28 percent).

The lack of insurance had significant health implications for many young adults, with 60 percent reporting that they did not get needed health care because of the cost.

The report, "Young, Uninsured and in Debt: Why Young Adults Lack Health Insurance and How the Affordable Care Act Is Helping," estimated that 13.7 million young adults stayed on or joined their parents' health plans from November 2010 to November 2011. Nearly half of those likely gained coverage because of the provision in the Affordable Care Act requiring that health plans insure children until age 26, the report says.

The report found regional differences in coverage, with 51 percent of young adults in the Northeast enrolled on a parent's policy, compared with 36 percent in the South and 60 percent in the Midwest. Young adults living in suburban areas were more likely than those in cities or rural areas to have coverage on a parent's plan.

Young adults in low-income households were most at risk for remaining uninsured. Only 17 percent of those ages 19 to 25 in low-income families stayed on or joined their parents' plans, compared with 69 percent of young adults in the highest income households.

"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, lead author of the report.

This story was reported under a partnership with the Connecticut Health I-Team (www.c-hit.org).

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