The 2010 federal health-care reform law has increased the portion of young adults with health-insurance coverage, according to a national report from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).
The percentage of individuals ages 19-25 with private health-insurance coverage rose from 51 percent in 2010 to 55.8 percent in the first six months of 2011, according to the EBRI report, which analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention'sNational Health Interview Survey.
That lines up with a provision of the healthcare reform law that required group health plans and insurers to allow children under 26 years old to receive coverage through their parents' health-insurance plans. The dependent-coverage portion of the law took effect for policy years starting on or after Sept. 23, 2010.
The EBRI report also showed that the percentage of uninsured 19- to 25-year-olds dipped from 33.9 percent in 2010 to 28.8 percent midway through 2011.
"That's a big drop," says Paul Fronstin, EBRI's Health Research and Education Program director and the author of the report. "The number may continue to come down."
EBRI, which is based in Washington, D.C., did not have data for the second half of 2011.
The fall in uninsured rates was not matched by the adult population as a whole, the report found. In 2010, 22.3 percent of adults ages 18-64 were uninsured. That portion decreased just 1 point to 21.3 percent in the first half of 2011.
Nor did the overall population gain private health insurance at a similar rate to 19- to 25-year-olds. In 2010, 64.1 percent of 18- to 64-year-olds had private health coverage, a. portion that edged up to just 64.2 percent in the first six months of 2011.
"The health-care law [provision] only affects young adults or adult dependents," Fronstin says. "And we saw an increase in the number of them, or the percentage of them, that had coverage. We did not see any kind of increase among older people."
EBRI also looked at employment based health-insurance coverage for young adults between 2009 and 2010. The data available for those years allowed the institute to look at whether adults had coverage in their own names or as dependents.
The portion of adults ages 19-25 with employment based coverage as dependents increased from 24.7 percent in 2009 to 27.7 percent in 2010, EBRI found. But the portion of 26- to 64-year-olds with coverage as dependents remained virtually the same - 17.4 percent in 2009 and 17.2 percent in 2010.
Fronstin says he was skeptical at such a large jump in 19- to 25-year-old's coverage rates when he first saw those results, because the health-reform law did not take effect until the last part of 2010. But after further review, he realized many insurers started to open dependent coverage to older children before the September date outlined in the law.
"A lot of insurance companies said, 'We're going to apply this early,' he says. 'They made the announcement in May because that's when a lot of college students would be leaving their parents' plans. And it's not constructive to lose them and then reenroll them a couple months later."
Meanwhile, the portion of 19- to 25-year-olds with employment-based coverage in their own names dropped 2.5 points between 2009 and 2010. It was 20 percent in 2009 but fell to 17.5 percent in 2010.
Older adults did not experience a similar decline. In 2009, 46.6 percent of 26- to 64-year-olds had employment based coverage in their own names, while 45.9 percent had such coverage in 2010.
Using another set of data for a more detailed examination of 2010, the EBRI report found the portion of young adults with dependent employment based coverage inched up in October and November - after the reform law took effect.
Between January and September of 2010, 26.9 percent of 19- to 25-year-olds had employment-based health benefits as dependents. That crept up to 27.1 percent in October and November.
But-the portion of 26- to 64-year-olds with dependent employment based health benefits dropped at the end of 2010. Between January and September, 18.5 percent of 26- to 64-year-olds had dependent employment-based health benefits. Just 18.2 percent had such benefits in October and November.