In the Journals

Health of young adults improved with ACA’s dependent coverage provision

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June 17, 2014

Young adults report having improved health and less out-of-pocket health care expenses since 2010, when the Affordable Care Act extended dependent coverage to young people up until age 26, according to a study published in JAMA.

Researchers evaluated adults between the ages of 19 and 34 years who participated in the annual 2002-2011 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. The study sample comprised 26,453 participants, (adults aged 19 to 25 years) and the control group consisted of 34,052 individuals (adults aged 26 to 34 years). Almost half of participants were male (47%) and 74% were white.

The researchers found that among those in the intervention group, the Affordable Care Act (ACA)’s dependent coverage provision resulted in a 7.2 percentage point increase in health insurance coverage (95% CI, 4.2-10.2), but no statistically significant changes in health care utilization. According to survey responses, participants in the intervention group also had an increase of 6.2 percentage points in their likelihood of reporting excellent physical health after 2010 (95% CI, 3.2-9.3), and a 4 percentage point increase in the likelihood of reporting excellent mental health (95% CI, 0.6-7.5).

Moreover, the dependent coverage provision was found to yield a decrease of 3.7 percentage points in out-of-pocket costs in young adults (95% CI, 95% CI, 0.9-6.4), as well as an 18% decrease in annual out-of-pocket expenses in the intervention group vs. controls (95% CI, 5-31). These results remained consistent after adjusting for household income, education and employment.

Disclosure: Sommers reports serving part-time as an advisor in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation at HHS. Chua reports no relevant disclosures.