U.S. healthcare reforms have enabled 2.5 million young adults to join or remain in their parents' health insurance plans, the U.S. government said on Wednesday, up from 1 million reported earlier this year.
Federal officials fully credited the gains to the Affordable Care Act, legislation championed by President Barack Obama that took effect last year and is deemed the biggest overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system in nearly 50 years.
The law aims broadly to eventually provide medical insurance to more than 30 million uninsured Americans, and in September last year allowed young adults to stay on their parents' private insurance plans through age 26. The provision is perhaps the single most popular element of the highly-divisive law and the announcement on Wednesday elicited little reaction from congressional Republicans.
That age group previously recorded the highest uninsured rate but the new report showed they no longer do. Now 26- to 35-year-olds have that dubious distinction by a narrow margin, according to a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The jump to 2.5 million young adults reported on Wednesday came as many graduated from high school and college in May and June and otherwise would have lost coverage, health officials said.
Since the policy helping young adults took effect in September 2010, the percentage of adults ages 19 to 25 covered by a private health insurance plan has increased to 73 percent in June from 64 percent, the Department of Health and Human Services said.
Over that time no change was observed in the insurance rate of adults age 26 to 35, 72 percent of whom are insured.
"Young adults were twice as likely to go without insurance... they were taking real risks," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters.
"Today, 2.5 million more young Americans are no longer living with that fear. Mothers and fathers can breathe a little easier."
Federal officials said data from the first three months of 2011 showed that 1 million more young adults had coverage compared with a year ago. The U.S. Census Bureau's report earlier this year showed that about half a million more Americans age 18 to 24 received health care coverage last year.
Dozens of states and a field of contenders for the Republican presidential nomination have attacked the Affordable Care Act, sometimes dubbed "Obamacare." They hope to repeal the legislation, saying it is a symbol of intrusive government seeking to raise taxes and burden businesses with new regulation.
The U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to review the reforms, as a sharply divided public watches from the sidelines.
(Reporting by Ransdell Pierson in New York and Alina Selyukh in Washington, editing by Matthew Lewis and Carol Bishopric)