A new survey shows big gains in health coverage for Americans under age 26
For the last year, 24 year-old Genelle Herrera has been able to visit the doctor for nothing more than a copayment. Herrera, who graduated from college two years ago, used to pay outrageous hospital bills for doctors visits and prescriptions. Last year, her mother, who works for JP Morgan Chase, was able to add Herrera to her health insurance plan.
“It took me forever to find employment to begin with so I had to take what I could,” says Herrera, who works for a non-profit agency that doesn’t offer health insurance to its employees. “I’m glad that now I can stay at this job for a little longer, gain some experience and still be covered under my mom’s plan.”
Herrera is one of many American young adults who have taken advantage of the change in the health-care law that allows adult children up to age 26 to remain on their parents’ health insurance plans.
For the last decade the 19 to 25 year age bracket was the most uninsured population. But in March 2010, President Obama signed The Affordable Care Act, and one of the provisions of the bill was that young adults up to age 26 could be listed on their parents’ policies. This change has led to a dramatic increase in health insurance coverage for young adults.
Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a new survey saying that the number of Americans ages 19 to 25 without insurance fell to 9.1 million in the first three months of 2011 from 10 million in 2010. A Gallup-Healthways poll found that the rate of uninsured adults in the same age group fell to 24.2 percent in the second quarter of this year from 28 percent last fall.
Prior to the act, young adults were removed from their parents’ policies at 18, 21, or when they finished college. That left them with no coverage.
That’s what happened to Herrera before the law went into effect. “I have type 2 diabetes and had to drop out a semester due to my illness,” says Herrera who graduated from Sarah Lawrence. “Dropping a semester meant I was no longer enrolled so I was knocked off my dad’s health insurance plan. What kind of sense [did] that make?”
Despite the increase in coverage of young people, many Americans are still in dire need of health insurance. According to the US Census Bureau, over 49.9 million uninsured.
Aurelia, a 22 year-old CCNY student, has no insurance. She was on her father’s policy, but earlier this year, he experienced a salary decrease and with the cutback went his health insurance. She says she takes vitamins to stay healthy.
“Lord knows I can’t afford to get sick,” says Aurelia, who chose not to disclose her surname. “When I had health insurance I didn’t pay much attention to making conscious health choices. Now, I’m scared to even get a cold. A visit to the ER will cost me hundreds of dollars. I’m a college student!”