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Informing Policy. Advancing Health.

Promising News for Young Adults' Health Insurance Coverage

The number of young adults with insurance coverage has increased substantially across the country as a result of a policy change under federal health reform.  The National Center for Health Statistics reported this week that nationwide the percentage of 19-25-year-olds with health coverage rose from 64 percent to 73 percent in only nine months, with roughly 2.5 million additional young adults receiving coverage. In Colorado, the numbers aren’t as dramatic, but they’re still positive for this age group.

Under the new federal law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), private insurers that offer dependent coverage to children are required to allow young adults up to age 26 to remain on their parent’s plan regardless of financial dependency, residency with parent, student status, employment or marital status.

A Colorado Health Institute analysis of the Colorado Household Survey and the Colorado Health Access survey indicates that the number of young adults ages 19 through 25 with insurance coverage increased, although the percentage of young adults with insurance stayed the same between 2009 and 2011. Colorado didn’t see as big surge as the nation for this group because the state already required dependent coverage to be available to some young adults up to age 25, those who were either financially dependent or shared the same address as the parent.  The Colorado law extending private insurance to young adults (HB 05-1101) took effect on January 1, 2006.

This stability in insurance coverage among young adults is significant because the percentage of slightly older Colorado adults between the ages of 26 and 34 with insurance coverage declined from 79 percent in 2009 to 71 percent in 2011. This decline is likely due to the greater number of unemployed adults and the rising costs of health insurance.  The law change extending the insurance coverage for young adults up to age 26 may have prevented a decline that was seen in the 26- to 34-year-old population.

Young adults between 19 and 34 have in the past, and still do have, the lowest rate of insurance coverage among all age groups.  The recent policy changes have increased the access to insurance for a portion of that population, the young ages 19 to 26.  Stay with us as the Colorado Health Institute continues to monitor changes in access to health insurance and health care for Colorado residents.

This chart from NCHS shows the dramatic change nationwide.