| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Aug 21 If uninsured young Americans
shun the new health plans offered under President Barack Obama's
healthcare reform law, it will be because the insurance costs
too much and not because they don't expect to need much medical
care, according to a study released on Wednesday.
What uninsured young adults do when state exchanges created
under "Obamacare" open on Oct. 1 will be one of the most
important factors in determining the success of the president's
signature domestic policy achievement. If too few young people,
who tend to be relatively healthy, sign up for coverage, then
premiums might not cover the medical costs of sicker people who
"Contrary to commonly held beliefs, young adults do want
affordable health coverage," said Dr. David Blumenthal,
president of the nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund. The group's
study dispels the notion that young adults don't think they need
coverage because they feel invincible, said lead author Sara
Up to 82 percent of nearly 16 million uninsured young U.S.
adults would qualify for federal subsidies or Medicaid under
Obamacare, meaning that affordability is less likely to impede
enrollment in health insurance via state exchanges, the study
concludes. Those ages 19 to 29 will eventually enroll in large
numbers, it predicts, without specifying how many years it could
That optimistic conclusion comes from what young adults do
when offered an opportunity to buy health insurance through
their jobs. In such cases, 67 percent took the coverage.
For those who declined, the chief reasons were that they
were covered by a family member (54 percent) or couldn't afford
the premiums (22 percent). Only 5 percent turned down coverage
because they felt they were unlikely to need much medical care.
That price, not feeling they will never get sick, is the
main barrier to young adults buying health insurance, said Aaron
Smith, co-founder of Young Invincibles, a non-profit that runs
education campaigns and conducts research on issues important to
18-to-34-year olds. "Price is the biggest hurdle."
The group was not involved in the Commonwealth study but has
received government funding to help people enroll in Obamacare
THE MASSACHUSETTS EXAMPLE
The Commonwealth study also pointed to what happened when
Massachusetts instituted healthcare reform in 2007, requiring
-like Obamacare - that everyone have insurance or pay a penalty.
In the first year, the uninsured rate for 19-to-26-year olds
fell from 21 percent to 8 percent.
"Based on Massachusetts, there is reason to believe young
adults will come to the (state insurance) marketplaces and sign
up," said the Commonwealth's Blumenthal.
A greater barrier than affordability may be that very few
young adults are aware that the new coverage will be an option
in less than six weeks.
Confirming other surveys, a Commonwealth poll found that
only 27 percent of the 19-to-29-year olds were aware of the
state health insurance marketplaces. Awareness was lowest among
the uninsured (19 percent knew about the marketplaces) and
people with low to moderate incomes (18 percent).
Those groups are most likely to benefit from the federal
subsidies available to help people with incomes less than four
times the poverty level ($45,960 for an individual) buy policies
on the exchanges.
The survey, with 1,885 respondents, was done in March, and
young adults' awareness may be higher now since several states
as well as the federal government have begun advertising and
marketing campaigns to tell the uninsured about the exchanges.
The survey has a margin of sampling error of 3.2 percentage
The report also found that 15 million adults ages 19 to 25
(half of this age group) were on a parent's health insurance
policy in the prior 12 months, up from 13.7 million in 2011. Of
the 15 million, an estimated 7.8 million got that coverage
through the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,
which requires insurers allow children up to age 26 to stay on a
Partly as a result, the number of uninsured young adults
dropped from 18.1 million in 2011 to 15.7 million in 2013.