Health reform enhances financial protection for young adults

The provision of the Affordable Care Act allowing young adults to remain on their parents’ medical insurance until age 25 has increased the number of young adults with health insurance and shielded them from the full financial consequences of serious medical emergencies, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study, conducted by researchers at the RAND Corporation, examined how the implementation of the new provision in September 2010 affected rates of insurance coverage for young adults seeking medical care for major emergencies.

The researchers looked at emergency department care for serious injuries and illnesses provided to young adults aged 19 years to 31 years in 392 hospitals between January 2008 and December 2011. Researchers investigated only nondiscretionary cases, which included 6% of emergency department visits. The insurance status of patients aged 19 years to 25 years was compared with that of patients aged 26 years to 31 years to analyze whether changes in insurance coverage among the younger group were caused by trends other than the new health law.

The researchers found that visits to the emergency department by uninsured young adults decreased significantly and estimated that $147 million in associated costs were covered by private insurance plans in a 1-year period.

“The change allowing young people to remain on their parents’ medical insurance is protecting young adults and their families from the significant financial risk posed by emergency medical care,” Andrew Mulcahy, PhD, the study’s lead author and a health policy researcher at RAND, stated in a news release. “Hospitals are benefitting, too, because they are treating fewer uninsured young people for emergency ailments.”

For more information:

Mulcahy A. N Engl J Med. 2013. doi: 10.1056/NEJMsa1212779.

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