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Young adults are key to Obamacare, helping seniors

Carlotta Mohamed | 11/6/2013, 12:53 p.m.

Young adults, who make up almost a third of all uninsured Americans, can now sign up for the Affordable Care Act on the health insurance marketplace, giving them access to purchase health insurance coverage. The Obama administration hopes to attract many of these healthy young people to offset the cost of guaranteed coverage for seniors with pre-existing conditions.

A provision, already in effect under Obamacare, allows young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance plan until the age of 26. If Americans already have insurance either through Medicare, Medicaid or an employer-provided plan, they don’t need to buy coverage. But according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 51 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds are unaware that the Affordable Care Act is still the law, don’t want it or may have a poor understanding about it with terms used such as “deductible” and “premium.”

Only a slight majority (55 percent) of young adults aged 19-29 who are potentially eligible for the coverage options said they were very or somewhat likely to use the marketplaces, compared to 65 percent of those ages 30 to 49.

Despite the challenge of mobilizing the younger demographic to sign up for Obamacare, young adults appreciate the importance of health insurance, which should make it easier to reach them. Another Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows that around 74 percent of people age 30 and younger feel it is important to have coverage. The percentage has risen since then after last month’s research by the Commonwealth Fund in September.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that, compared to 16.3 percent of all Americans, an estimated 20.8 percent of African-Americans are uninsured. Individuals from racial and ethnic minority groups make up about one-third of the nation’s population, but are at a higher risk of being uninsured because of low income and lack of health services and facilities in their communities.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in the first nine months after the provision took effect (October 2010 to June 2011), the number of young African-American adults ages 19-25 with health insurance increased by 8.3 percent. An estimated 410,000 young African-American adults have health insurance coverage because of Obamacare.

The new health law will give young African-American women the opportunity for more coverage for preventative services such as mammograms and screenings for cervical cancer, prenatal care and HPV testing without cost sharing.

Addressing the online glitches that will be fixed to enroll for health insurance on healthcare.gov, President Barack Obama said in his speech, “What the Affordable Care Act does for you is provide you with new benefits and protections that have been in place for some time. Millions of young people are currently benefitting from that—from that part of the law.”

However, USA Today reported that not all young people would be able to afford to buy coverage since they won’t qualify for subsidies because some states are not expanding their Medicaid programs. According to the Commonwealth Fund, most uninsured young adults living below poverty will not have access to subsidized public or private insurance in states opting out of the Medicaid expansion. Also, young adults who make too much money, about $33,500, will not be able to receive subsidies either.

Also, high earners who already pay for their own health coverage will face a bigger premium than they owe now, and the more premiums rise, the more they are likely to drop the

coverage.