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More Young People Have Health Insurance, But Still Not Enough

Today is the second anniversary of Obama’s healthcare reform being signed into law, but he’s not commenting on it. He may be afraid of touching this new third rail of politics that the right has created, but there are some reasons young Americans should be celebrating today.

As result of the healthcare reform an estimated 2.5 million young adults received coverage under their parents' plans in March 2010 - June 2011, according to Kaiser Health News’ report card. The cost of adding these young people to the plans was a mere 0.9 percent increase in 2011 premiums.

We should applaud this fact and be glad for the 2.5 million young people who are now covered. But let's not break out the champagne quite yet. A full 24.5 percent of young Americans are still without health insurance, an unacceptable and costly problem. And the Affordable Care Act can not fully solve this problem, since many of the parents of these young people don't have health plans they can add their kids to.

More broadly, the new law -- so far, anyway -- is weak medicine in the wake of major setbacks for young adults when it comes to health security. In The State Of Young America, Demos and Young Invincibles wrote that the number of young people lacking health insurance has risen dramatically in recent decades: 

  • The proportion of full-time workers aged 18 to 24 with insurance through their job dropped by 12.8 percentage points in the past 10 years alone, a far larger decline than the rate for all workers (4.4 percent).
  • Overall, just 43.7 percent of all 18 to 24 year-olds and 55.7 percent of 25 to 34 year-olds were covered by an employer sponsored plan in 2009, both significantly lower than a decade earlier.

So good news: the Affordable Care Act has extended coverage to many young people. Bad news: we still have a long, long way to go.