Monday, May 9, 2011

More Than 600,000 Young Adults Covered In Parents' Health Plans Under ACA

As of the first quarter of 2011, at least 637,000 young adults are getting coverage under their parents' health plans as allowed by the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act (ACA), the Kaiser Family Foundation reported based on major insurers' data. The ACA requires health insurance plans to allow young adults up to age 26 to be covered under their parents' plans, even if the young adult is a full-time student, not living with or a dependent of the parent, or married.

Six major health insurers reported the following numbers of young adult new enrollees, according to Kaiser:

  • WellPoint—280,000 new members, about one third its total enrollment growth in the first three months of 2011;

  • Aetna—fewer than 100,000;

  • Kaiser Permanente—about 90,000;

  • Highmark—about 72,000;

  • Health Care Service Corporation—about 82,000; and

  • United Healthcare—about 13,000.

The Federal Employees Health Benefits Program also reported adding 280,000 young adults; meanwhile Tricare, the health care program for active military families, began covering employees' young adults on May 1.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had estimated that about 1.2 million young adults would enroll for coverage in 2011. The early numbers from insurers indicate that it could be much higher, according to Aaron Smith, executive director of the Young Invincibles, a Washington-based nonprofit group that advocates for young adults.

Carl McDonald, an analyst for Citigroup, observed that most of the increase in young people's enrollment occurred among self-insured employers who contract with insurers to administer their plans.

Although the dependent coverage provision went into effect Sept. 23, 2010, health plans were not required to adopt the change until the beginning of the next plan year, which for most plans was January 2011. However, some insurers voluntarily adopted the provision before they were required to do so.

According to federal estimates, adding young adult coverage is likely to increase average family premiums by approximately 1%.

Young adults have the highest uninsured rate of any age group—about 30%, which is thought to be because many work in jobs that do not provide coverage and cannot afford their own employer's coverage, even if granted access.

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