Young Adults Remain at Risk: 13.7 Million Lack Coverage

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<p>The number of uninsured young adults in the United States rose to 13.7 million in 2006--an increase from 13.3 million in 2005--making the 19-to-29 age group one of the largest and fastest-growing segments of the population without health insurance. According to a newly updated report from The Commonwealth Fund, 38 percent of high school graduates who do not attend college and 34 percent of college graduates will spend some time uninsured in the year after graduation.<br /><br />The latest survey data, reported in <a href="/publications/fund-reports/2008/may/rite-of-passage--why-young-adults-become-uninsured-and-how-new-policies-can-help--2008-update
">Rite of Passage? Why Young Adults Become Uninsured and How New Policies Can Help,</a> also show that working young adults are much less likely than older workers to have access to health insurance through their employers. Just over half (53%) of 19- to 29-year-olds were eligible for coverage offered by their employers, compared with about three-quarters (74%) of 30- to 64-year-olds.<br /><br />Young adults often lose coverage at age 19, as a result of being dropped from parents' policies or from public programs like Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Young adults from low-income households are most at risk.<br /><br />The report found that two-thirds of young adults who went through a period without insurance in the past year had also gone without needed health care because of the cost. One-half reported that they had problems paying their medical bills or were paying off medical debt over time.<br /><br />In the face of these challenges, new efforts on both the state and federal level to cover young adults are gaining momentum. Twenty states have passed legislation requiring insurers to extend dependent coverage to young adults older than 18 or 19. The new age limits range from 24 in Delaware, Indiana, and South Dakota to 30 in New Jersey. Some congressional bills have proposed allowing states to extend eligibility for Medicaid and SCHIP beyond age 18.</p>