What health care reform means for young adults – National Consumers League

The historic health reform battle ended in March, with the signing of the Affordable Care Act of 2010. While many of the law’s programs and benefits will be rolled out over the next 5-10 years, there will be several, more immediate, benefits that we will begin to see in the coming months.

You can actually see – state-by-state – which benefits have already been made available. It is now easier than ever to get access to health insurance.   Everyone will begin to see the benefits of the expanded access to affordable care – whether young adults, Medicare recipients, small business owners, or those just seeking additional preventive services.

What reform means for young adults

The new health care law enacted in March of 2010 has numerous provisions that will impact young adults. This demographic, though sometimes referred to as the ‘invincibles’, faces numerous health issues. The Department of Health and Human Services reports one in six young adults has a chronic illness and 30% are uninsured; young adults also have the lowest rate of access to employer-sponsored health insurance. The new law contains numerous provisions to cover young adults, whether through insurance provided through their employer, their parents’ health insurance, Medicaid changes, or the new Health Insurance Exchanges. Although many of its parts will not take effect until 2014, some major changes will occur in 2010.


Before the law was passed, insurers could drop young adults from their parents’ health care plan when they turned 19, or upon graduation from college. The new law eliminates these practices. Starting in September 2010, dependent children up to the age of 26 will be eligible to remain on their parents’ plan, whether they are in college or not, living at home or residing in another state, or are single or married. The remaining exception, however, is that young adults offered coverage through their own job or if their parents’ existing plan does not qualify.

By 2014, all American citizens, including young adults, will be required to purchase insurance, with the threat of a fee for those who do not. There are various provisions in the new law, which make it easier to obtain coverage. Unemployed young adults with income up to approximately $15,000/year can look forward to an expansion of Medicaid for their health coverage. Individuals who make less than about $43,000 and who work at a place that does not provide affordable coverage can receive tax credits to help pay for insurance through new Health Insurance Exchanges. These exchanges will give consumers choice among plans and in a standardized format to help them find which is best for their needs. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, prices each year will be capped at $5950 for individuals and $11,900 for families, excluding premiums.

The new law also intends to make obtaining insurance easier for young adults who work for small businesses. Many young adults work for small businesses. According to Kaiser Family Foundation, 36 percent of working uninsured young adults were employed in a small business with fewer than 25 workers. Incrementally over the next four years, small businesses with less than 25 employees will be eligible to receive tax credits to help make health insurance more affordable for their employees. If the small business has fewer than 100 employees, they also will be able to purchase insurance through the new Health Insurance Exchanges.

Preexisting conditions

Starting in September 2010, insurers can no longer deny coverage to children up to 19 with preexisting conditions such as asthma and high blood pressure. However, young adults over the age of 19 will not have this protection until 2014. In the meantime, adults with preexisting conditions who have not had insurance for a six–month period will have the option to either enter a temporary national pool for high-risk individuals or join pools set up by their state. You can find more information about whether your state is covered by this national plan here.

Preventive care

Under the new law, young adults can also take advantage of the many expansions to preventive care.  New health plans must cover certain preventive services without having the consumer share the costs.  Consumers will not need to pay a deductible, co-pay, or coinsurance when receiving preventive care. The preventive services covered include blood tests, many cancer screenings, and counseling for a wide array of issues.