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Mom and Dad's Health Insurance Increasingly Lures Young Adult Kids, HHS Says

By Jane Norman, CQ HealthBeat Associate Editor

September 21, 2011 -- Young adults appear to be flocking to their parents' health insurance policies, based on the release of yet another set of federal statistics showing an uptick in the number of Americans ages 19 to 25 with coverage.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that new data from the National Center for Health Statistics shows the share of young adults with health insurance rose from 66.1 percent in the first quarter of 2010 to 69.6 percent in the first quarter of this year. HHS officials said that amounts to about one million young people.

At the same time, the rates of health insurance among all other age groups rose only slightly, from 85.9 percent in 2010 to 86.3 percent in 2011, HHS officials said.

They said that the increase in health insurance coverage clearly is the result of a provision in the health care law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152) that allows young adults to remain on family policies until they are 26. It went into effect for plan renewals beginning on Sept. 23, 2010.

The assistance for young adults did not attract much notice when the law was moving through Congress but has since become a major selling point. When the provision was added, experts were uncertain how much of an impact it would have.

The release of the new statistics from the center, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, followed two other sets of numbers that also indicated young adults are increasingly gaining coverage.

Census estimates released earlier this month found that the percentage of young adults ages 18 to 24 with insurance increased from 70.7 percent in 2009 to 72.8 percent in 2010.

A new Gallup Poll also found fewer young adults lacking health insurance. Among those 18 to 25 who were surveyed, 24.2 percent said they were uninsured in the second quarter of 2011, compared to 28 percent in the third quarter of 2010, Gallup said.

However, the poll also found that the percentage of uninsured people ages 26 to 64 continued to increase, to a high of 19.9 percent in the second quarter of 2011. Pollsters noted they began to include more cell phone respondents beginning April 1, and thus some of the increase in the percentage of uninsured people could reflect greater representation of people who only use cell phones—and they tend to be younger.

"The provision of the Affordable Care Act that allows children up to the age of 26 to remain on their parents' plans appears to be having an immediate effect on the number of Americans who report they have health insurance," said Gallup.

The Gallup–Healthways Well-Being Index results were gathered April 1 through June 30 with a random sample of 89,857 adults age 18 and older. In the total sample, the margin of error was plus or minus one percentage point.

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