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More Young Americans Insured

Posted on Sep 26, 2011 by Sergio Ulloa ()

While the United States' political class continues to feverishly debate the merits of government involvement in healthcare and insurance, one key demographic has seen a considerable improvement in coverage since several provisions from President Obama's contentious Affordable Care Act were put into place in 2010. According to two recently released surveys, one by the government and another by Gallup, nearly one million young adults have gained health insurance in the US within the past year. Health insurance in the United States is primarily provided through private sector employers. This has meant that citizens classified as young adults, aged 18 to 25 and traditionally the most likely to be either be unemployed, underemployed or still in school, have been the demographic group with the lowest proportion of health insurance policyholders in the country. A key provision of the Obama Administration's Health Care Reform Act has given citizens in that age range more coverage options. Starting in September last year, young adults can stay covered as a dependent under their parent's family health insurance plan until they are 26 years old, enabling the mass of college graduates encountering a difficult job market to maintain some valuable security. Young adults are able to stay on a family plan even if they no longer live with their parents, are not a student, listed as a dependent on a parent's tax return, or even married. Under the previous law, dependent children were generally removed from a parent's coverage when they reached a cut-off age (usually 19) or graduated college. These young workers would then largely abstain from coverage as starting positions frequently do not have extensive health benefits nor adequate wages to afford an individual health insurance policy. According to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), by the end of the first quarter of 2011 the number of uninsured adults in the 19-to-25 age bracket had decreased by 900,000 over the same period last year, moving from 33.9 percent of all young adults (10 million) in 2010 to 30.4 percent (9.1 million) this year. The CDC report, the National Health Interview Survey, interviewed more than 20,000 people from January through March and noted that the increase in insurance coverage amongst younger working-age Americans may continue through the remainder of the year. For every other age group surveyed, the proportion without health insurance actually increased, in conjunction with rising unemployment figures and contracting employer margins. The CDC noted that for the first time in over a decade, the 18-to-24 year old group was not the least insured group in the United States, having now been overtaken by other working-age Americans who are between 25 to 34 years old. The CDC report reinforced findings made by the US Census Bureau last week, which reported that the percentage of young adults without health insurance cover dropped by 2 percentage points in 2010, to 27.2 percent overall. The Census Bureau uses different testing methodology to the CDC but that result still translates to 502,000 fewer uninsured 18-to-24 year olds in the United States over the past year. The Census numbers further revealed that young adults were the only group who gained coverage through private employer policies (possibly though their parent's plans), and not government programs. A separate forecast by the Department of Health and Human Services last year, came between both government surveys, projecting that 650,000 young adults would gain coverage in 2011 due to the healthcare reform act. A survey conducted by independent polling firm Gallup found similar rates of insurance amongst American young adults in the second quarter of 2011, giving valuable credence to the government's assessment. Gallup's data incorporated 89,857 interviews between April 1 and June 30 and found that the number of uninsured Americans ages 18 to 25 went down to about one in four (24.2 percent) from upwards of the 28 percent last reported in the third quarter of 2010. According to Gallup, this is near the lowest rate measured for this age group since the firm started to monitor health insurance coverage rates in 2008. Neither survey explicitly linked the rise in insurance coverage amongst young adult Americans to the recent changes in healthcare law. However, when paired with stagnant unemployment numbers and falling health insurance rates elsewhere, it becomes more apparent that lifting age-restrictions to family cover has had a profound affect on the statistics. Allies of the Obama Administration's agenda have been quick to use this data to demonstrate the positive role more proactive government policy can have in increasing insurance coverage in the USA. Last week, Kathleen Sebelius, Health and Human Services secretary, explained in a statement that young Americans would now be able to choose their career path without fear of dropped coverage or inadequate benefits. "This is a reminder the difference the Affordable Care Act is making in the lives of Americans ½Where would we be if the inventors of Facebook had taken a desk job just to get health insurance," Sebelius said. Young adults, when given appropriate information and resources, are certainly interested in buying insurance and taking the necessary steps to protect themselves and their future. The rise in insurance awareness amongst younger working-age people is a trend being experienced worldwide. According to recent studies commissioned by Swiss Re and ING, the next generation of consumers in emerging Asian powerhouse markets India and China have become increasingly risk averse, more aware of the benefits of insurance, and willing to purchase cost-effective policies. For the international insurance industry, these younger clients are not only the future buyers of insurance, they also represent a tremendous business opportunity right now. Organizations Mentioned CDC CDC The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The CDC is the primary Federal agency responsible for executing and supporting public health initiatives in the United States of America. Gallup GALLUP Gallup Inc. was founded in 1935 and has grown to become one of the world's leading polling, research and consulting organizations. The firm today employs thousands of industry specialists and provides its services through the internet, Gallup University campuses, and through 40 offices stationed around the world.
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