Young Adults Healthier as Obamacare Kept Them on Parents’ Plans

A year after the policy began, 31 percent of those 19 to 25 told federal researchers they were in excellent physical health, compared with 27 percent on average from 2002 to 2009.

INN Breaking News, June 18, 2014

Alex Wayne

(Bloomberg) -- A year after Obamacare gave young adults the right to stay on their parents’insurance plans, more of them reported excellent physical and mental health in one of the first definitive results seen from the overhaul.

The policy letting parents keep children on their plans until age 26 was one of the first expansions of coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, enacted in September 2010. It is also one of the most popular; some congressional Republicans who otherwise support repealing the law have said they would retain the parental coverage provision.

A year after the policy began, about 31 percent of those 19 to 25 told federal researchers they were in excellent physical health, compared with 27 percent on average from 2002 to 2009, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. About 39 percent said they were in excellent mental health, a 2.5-percentage point improvement.

The study “lends support for the national efforts that have been made under the ACA to expand coverage to a wide variety of populations,” Kao-Ping Chua, a pediatrician in the division of emergency medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital and a doctoral candidate at Harvard University’s health policy program, said in a phone interview.

The study examined federal data on insurance coverage and the health of about 60,000 young adults. About 69 percent of 19- to 25-year-olds were covered by health insurance in 2011, 6.5 percentage points more than the average from 2002 to 2009, before the health-care law required insurers to let them stay on their parents’ plans.

Previous research, Chua said, has focused on the impact of expanding insurance to low-income and elderly people, not to relatively healthy young adults -- the focus of his study. “Insurance coverage makes a difference in many different populations,” he said.

Insurance coverage declined in 2011 for adults 26 to 34, by comparison, and fewer of them reported being healthier than the average from 2002 to 2009.

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