A third of young adults uninsured in 2008: U.S. report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A third of young U.S. adults -- nearly 13 million people -- had no health insurance coverage in 2008, according to a government report released on Wednesday.

The survey of more than 9,000 people aged 20 to 29 by the National Center for Health Statistics found that 30 percent of young adults had no coverage and were almost twice as likely as adults aged 30 to 64 to be uninsured.

People aged 20 to 29 account for more than a quarter of the estimated 45 million uninsured people in the United States, although they make up just 14 percent of the overall population, said Robin Cohen, who worked on the report.

The uninsured rates for people aged 20 to 29 are typically high because their coverage is disrupted as they move from childhood into adulthood, when they may be losing the coverage they had through their parents’ insurance or have reached the age limit for coverage under a public program, Cohen said in a telephone interview.

“They may be taking jobs of lower wages or temporary jobs typically available to young adults and many of these jobs often come with limited or no health benefits,” Cohen added.

The White House offered a plan on Monday that would allow young adults up to age 26 to stay on a parent’s health insurance plan but would not require employers to offer insurance.

The administration plan is aimed at closing gaps between House of Representatives and Senate legislation in order to revive its effort to overhaul the $2.5 trillion healthcare industry.

The government’s report said lack of health insurance coverage may “leave young adults vulnerable to high out-of-pocket expenses in the event of a serious illness or injury.”

“Young adulthood is also a time that there’s a high risk created for unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, substance abuse and injury and these are things that are directly related to the need for health care services,” Cohen said.

More findings from 2008 National Health survey:

* Although 58 percent of those surveyed had private health insurance coverage, men with insurance were less likely than women to seek medical services.

* Young adults with no insurance were four times as likely as those with private insurance and two times as likely as those with Medicaid to have unmet medical need.

* Uninsured young women were almost twice as likely as uninsured young men to have had unfilled prescriptions in the past year.

* 10 percent of young adults needed medical care in the past year but did not get it due to cost.

Editing by Maggie Fox and Vicki Allen