2.5 million new reasons to love “Obamacare”

I’m not qualified to say whether the individual mandate of the 2010 Affordable Care Act [ACA]  is constitutional, but I am pretty certain that there are now 2.5  million more people who think “Obamacare” is a rather good deal. The 2.5 million are young adults under the age of 26, who, under ACA, are now allowed to retain health care coverage under their parents’ policies and who have taken advantage of the opportunity.

When the new ACA rule went into effect on Sept. 23, 2010, officials who predict these kinds of things speculated that perhaps 700,000 people would take advantage of that new provision. But figures released in December 2011 by the Department of Health and Human Services reveal that that estimate was far too—dare I say—conservative.

The impact of this ACA-induced enrollment surge is noteworthy, because it has significantly reduced the “uninsured” rate for the  19-25- year-old age bracket. According to Kaiser Health News:

Officials based their number on U.S. Census data and the results of the latest National Health Interview Survey. In September 2010, the survey found 64.4 percent of adults between 19 and 25 were insured. By March, the rate was up to 69.6 percent, and in June it was at 72.7 percent. That month, the uninsured rate for this population reached its lowest point in more than a decade, down to 28.8 percent.

Federal officials also said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data clarify the link between the health law’s under-26 provision and the coverage expansion. For the first time, they compared the coverage rates for ages 19-25 with ages 26-35. The latter remained stable between September 2010 and June 2011, and has now replaced their younger counterparts as the age group most likely to be uninsured.

“This comparison makes it clear that the increase in coverage among 19- to 25-year-olds can be directly attributed to the Affordable Care Act’s new dependent-coverage provision,” notes the HHS report.

It seems that the new law came just in time to help 20-somethings who finished their collegiate years just in time for one of the worst post-graduation employment markets in recent memory. The new law also coincides with a general unemployment rate that is hitting young adults hard. And in an employer-based health care “system” that ties insurance to jobs, the result has been a surge in the numbers of young adults who—under pre-ACA rules–either aged out of their parents’ plans, didn’t qualify for employer-based coverage, or couldn’t afford individual health insurance.

According to Kaiser Health Service, “most of the newly covered 19- to 25-year-olds are going into private plans, likely their parents’ employer-sponsored insurance. According to the CDC data, 55.8 percent are now covered by a private plan, compared with 51.0 percent in 2010. Public health plan coverage, including Medicaid, remained stable.”

Some parents may not love the new rule that allows their adult children to boomerang back onto the family health plan. But it certainly beats paying healthcare costs out of pocket for an uninsured 23-year-old is who’s injured in a car wreck or gets pneumonia, right?

So, while I’m not wishing misfortune on anyone, I do hope that some of the folks who so rabidly—and irrationally—hate “Obamacare” will be able to see the up side—for themselves, their children and their economic self-interests—of this aspect of the law. Clearly, their kids—who are signing up by the millions—get it.