Millions of young adults have health insurance because of Obamacare

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The Department of Health and Human Services announced Sept. 20 that roughly a million more young people between the ages of 19 and 25 have health insurance coverage in the first quarter of 2011 than did in the first quarter of 2010. The National Center for Health Statistics also said the percentage of young people covered has gone up from 66.1 percent to 69.6 percent.

The increase, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, is due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), implemented in September 2010, that allows children to remain on their parents' health insurance policies until age 26. The act is a provision under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, commonly called Obamacare, that was approved last year.

HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health Policy Richard Kronick said because of recent survey results and the sheer number of young people now covered, he feels it’s the ACA that is causing the upswing.

"We feel quite confident in attributing virtually all of this change to provisions in the ACA," he said. “Starting in the fourth quarter of 2010 and continuing in the first quarter 2011, there was a sharp increase in coverage ... At same time coverage was stable or declining slightly for older Americans, ages 26-64. Given that timing ... It's very hard to imagine what else this could be other than the ACA."

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What this means is that young adults who were previously dropped from their parents’ insurance in their early 20s – or who were heading toward being dropped because of their age – will now be able to remain covered until their 26th birthday.

Elizabeth Wilson is an aspiring opera singer living in Indiana who was affected by the law and was interviewed by Business Week. When she turned 23, she was dropped from her parents’ health insurance, even though she was in the middle of a health care crisis. At the time she was dropped, she was in the hospital with an inflamed pancreas.

"It means I don't have to spend every penny I make to get health care," said Wilson, who isnow 24. "I can use some of it to further my studies -- or buy food."

The new health care mandates have been nothing if not controversial. Many GOP lawmakers are attempting to repeal the approval of what they call Obamacare, though some of them say they would include the mandate to cover young adults up to age 26 in any replacement legislation that is drafted.

One of the companies that conducted the surveys about the increase in young adults being covered, Gallup, said the age group had been one of the largest groups of uninsured Americans.

"While we did not see a drop-off in any other age group, we did see a drop in this age group," said Frank Newport, Gallup's polling director.

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