While one of the primary goals of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is to expand access to quality, affordable health coverage for all, young adults have benefitted more than many! Overall, 6.1 million young people have gained health insurance coverage since the ACA’s passage, including 2.3 million who remained on their parents’ plan and 3.8 million who gained coverage through Medicaid or the marketplace.
What young adults stand to lose:
Ability to Stay on a parent’s plan until age 26
One aspect of the Affordable Care Act that garnered the largest amount of support from both policymakers and the public is the requirement that insurers offering dependent coverage make that coverage available to children until age 26. As a result of this change, young adults ages 18-25, who were one of the least likeliest populations to have insurance, experienced a 52 percent decline in their uninsured rate. Over 35,000 young adults in South Carolina now obtain health insurance through their parents’ health coverage. Additionally, those ages 26-34 saw a 36 percent decline in their uninsured rate.
Help purchasing affordable coverage
Currently, the ACA provides tax credits to individuals based on their income to help pay for premiums, with lower-income individuals receiving more assistance than higher-earners. In contrast, the proposed replacement plans would offer flat-dollar amount tax credits based on age while ignoring other factors such as health and income level. Under this plan, young adults would receive the smallest amount of financial assistance, disadvantaging young adults with chronic health problems or who are low-income.
Loss of flexibility for changing circumstances
Compared to other groups, young adults have been more likely to be uninsured and twice as likely to lose coverage during the year. Activities that cause a loss of coverage, like graduating from college, aging out of parents’ coverage or leaving a job are all more likely to be experienced by young adults. Similarly, young adults are more likely to experience a life event, such as having a baby or getting married, that might necessitate getting coverage. The ACA sought to prevent these individuals from slipping through the cracks of coverage by providing special enrollment periods (SEPs), 60-day windows outside of the annual open enrollment period for individuals experiencing these types of life events to enroll in coverage. Unfortunately, Health and Human Services Secretary nominee Tom Price’s proposed replacement plan would substantially penalize anyone experiencing an insurance gap: insurers would be able to charge enrollees who experience a lapse in coverage up to 150 percent more than the standard premium price, and enrollees would be required to pay this increased amount for 18 months before they could pay the standard amount.
Take a Stand
The results of the 2016 election have created new threats to the ability of young adults to access quality, affordable health care. To help protect coverage gains for young adults in the fight ahead, advocates should continue to highlight the stories of young adults who accessed health care through their parents’ health plans, on the Marketplace. You can do so using our webpage, South Carolina Healthcare Voices, to fill out a brief survey.
It is important that our congressional delegation understands the vital role the ACA has played in ensuring coverage and security for young adults in SC.
*This blog originally appeared on Community Catalyst’s website in part of a series highlighting the dangers of repealing the ACA.