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Coverage rises as young adults take advantage of Obama health law

September 21, 2011|By Noam N. Levey, Washington Bureau
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated…)

As many as a million young adults have signed up for health insurance in the last year, new data indicate, suggesting an early benefit of the healthcare law President Obama signed last year.

A survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 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.

And a Gallup-Healthways poll found that the rate of uninsured adults ages 18 to 25 fell to 24.2% in the second quarter of this year from 28% last fall. 

Starting last September, the new health law began allowing adult children up to age 26 to remain on their parents’ health plans.

“The provision ... appears to be having an immediate effect on the number of Americans who report they have health insurance,” Gallup concludes in a note accompanying its survey.

Americans in their late teens and early 20s remain the most likely to go without insurance.

By comparison, fewer than 7% of children under age 18 lacked health insurance, according to the CDC survey, reflecting the wide availability of government health programs for low- and middle-income children, including Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP.

The new insurance numbers were quickly hailed by the Obama administration and its allies, who have been looking for evidence that the new law is having a positive impact, especially because many of its benefits are still years away.

“This news today demonstrates a great victory for young Americans, and is evidence that the new healthcare law is working for our generation,” said Jen Mishory, deputy director of Young Invincibles, a supporter of the law.

“In this tough economy, it’s even more important that young adults have access to decent, affordable coverage.  Because of dependent coverage, one million more of us have that access,” she said.

The uptick in health coverage among young adults was also picked up in recent census data and reinforced by reports from insurers that many Americans were taking advantage of the new healthcare law's benefit.

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