National Consumers League

Health care reform: A brief look at how implementation will affect young adults


By Jacob Markey, NCL LifeSmarts intern The new health care bill passed in March covers a vast array of issues and represents a fundamental shift in health care in the United States. If you are a young adult like me, you probably have had a difficult time understanding how the law affects you. As a student preparing for life after college, I realize knowing about these changes is vital, since they will have a profound impact on my life. And let’s face it, this law is very important for people my age, as the young adult population faces numerous health issues. The Department of Health and Human Services describes statistics that paint a somewhat bleak picture: about 30 percent of young adults are uninsured; one in six has a chronic illness; and young adults have the lowest rate of access to employer-sponsored health insurance. Thus, young adults should focus on the process of implementing the law and the aspects that affect our demographic. While many of its provisions will not take effect until 2014 at the earliest, young adults will soon notice some major changes targeted at our age group. In the past, people as young as 19 could be dropped from their parents’ health care plan. Starting in September, dependent children up to the age of 26 will be eligible to remain on their parents’ plan. By 2014, unemployed young adults with income up to about $15,000/year can look forward to an expansion of Medicaid for coverage. Others who make less than about $43,000 and who work at a place that doesn’t provide affordable coverage can receive tax credits to help pay for insurance. The new law will hopefully make obtaining insurance easier for young adults who work for small businesses. Small businesses will be eligible to receive tax credits to help make health insurance more affordable for their employees. This is significant, as statistics from the Kaiser Family Foundation show that “36 percent of working uninsured young adults were employed in small firms with less than 26 workers.” Another important change covers preexisting conditions. While children up to 19 with preexisting conditions like asthma and high blood pressure can no longer be denied coverage starting in September, young adults will not have this option until 2014. In the meantime, adults who have preexisting conditions but have not had insurance for six months will have the option to either enter a temporary national pool for high-risk individuals that will cover them until 2014 or join pools set up by the state they live in. You can find more information about whether your state is covered by this national plan here. While these plans may be expensive, without these provisions, millions of Americans could continue to be denied coverage. The Center for American Progress has a fascinating map that demonstrates the importance of this part of the bill by showing the percentage of adults in each state who have certain preexisting conditions (asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes). This information represents just a tiny slice of the changes in the health care. For more detailed information about health care reform and the law’s implementation, great sites to check out include the Kaiser Family Foundation and, the latter which has valuable information targeted specifically for young adults.