Policy Priorities

Policy Priorities image of kids

What Does It Mean for Young Adults?

Of the 33 million young adults ages 19 to 26 in America today, 14.8 million are uninsured, leaving them particularly susceptible to poor health outcomes and high medical bills. Last year, President Obama signed into law landmark health care reform legislation that will guarantee access to health coverage for 30 million people in America, including millions of young adults. With the passage of the The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, Congress and the President took a major step towards ensuring affordable and comprehensive health coverage for all Americans.

The legislation:

Makes it easier for young adults to get health coverage and keep it.

  • Allows young adults to remain on their parents’ health insurance until age 26. This will help millions of students and other young people maintain health coverage during the first years of adulthood. Since this provision went into effect in September 2010, more than 600,000 young adults have become insured. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had estimated that about 1.2 million young adults will enroll in coverage in 2011.
  • Creates a temporary “high-risk” pool for people who were denied health coverage due to a pre-existing condition to access health insurance. Fifteen percent of young adults who suffer from pre-existing conditions could benefit from this provision.

Prevents insurance companies from unjustly denying coverage.

  • Insurers will no longer be able to refuse to cover young adults because of a pre-existing condition. (Effective 2014) 
  • Prohibits insurance companies from canceling coverage when a person becomes sick.
  • Eliminates lifetime limits on covered benefits. Bans restrictive annual limits on benefits (already in effect), and will eliminate all annual limits in 2014.
  • Health plans cannot charge adult children a higher premium or offer fewer benefits than they provide for young children.
  • Unlike plans in the current individual insurance market where women can be charged premiums up to 84 percent more then men for the same insurance policy, female adults will pay the same premiums as men in their age group.

Makes health coverage more affordable.

  • Offers young adults under age 30 the option of purchasing a low-cost “Catastrophic-Plan,” designed to provide health coverage with low premiums—but high deductibles—for young adults. (Effective 2014)
  • Provides tax credits for individuals with incomes below 400 percent of the Federal poverty level (up to $43,560 for an individual) who are not insured through an employer to help them purchase meaningful health coverage. (Effective in 2014 when the exchanges are operational)

Expands and strengthens the health safety net.

  • Provides the greatest expansion of Medicaid coverage for the poor since the program’s enactment in 1965. Approximately 9 million currently uninsured young adults with incomes below 133 percent of poverty (up to $14,484 for an individual or $29,726 for a family of four) will become eligible for Medicaid (Effective 2014)
  • Currently 37 states have passed laws that allow young adults to be considered dependents until age 26 for insurance purposes. However, more young adults and their families will benefit under the new federal law then under more restrictive state laws.
  • The new insurance option for young adults helps to shorten or eliminate gaps in coverage often experienced by adults transitioning between high school and college and the job market.
  • College health plans should also improve under the new law because they are required to follow the same rules for private insurance companies including the elimination of annual limits on spending per student starting in 2012.

Includes extra assistance for the most vulnerable young adults.

  • Requires states to extend Medicaid coverage to age 26 for youths who were in foster care at age 18 or older and are not otherwise eligible for Medicaid. (Effective 2014)

Please visit youngincibles.org to get more information about new options for health coverage for young adults. You can also visit ncsi.org to learn more about which insurance companies are implementing the dependent coverage provision early and current dependent laws in your state.