Young Adults and the Affordable Care Act

Young Adults and the Affordable Care Act

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes


Before the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, many health plans and issuers did not allow young adults to remain on their parents’ policies because of their age. This left many college graduates and other young people without insurance. But now, the ACA allows young adults to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until the age of 26, eliminating problems such as:

  • Young adults accounting for the highest percentage of the uninsured population out of any age group in America at approximately 30%.
  • Young adults having the lowest rate of access to employer-based insurance because entry-level, part-time or small business employment were often without employer-sponsored health insurance.
  • Young adults’ health and finances being at risk because nearly half of uninsured young adults reported problems paying medical bills.

Relief for young adults

The Affordable Care Act requires all plans and issuers that offer coverage to children on their parents plan to make this coverage available to young adults until they reach the age of 26. The departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury have issued the following regulations that include (sourced from theUnited States Department of Labor):

  • Coverage Extended to More Children. The goal of this new policy is to cover as many young adults under the age of 26 as possible with the least burden. Plans and issuers that offer dependent coverage must offer coverage to enrollees’ adult children until age 26, even if the young adult no longer lives with his or her parents, is not a dependent on a parent’s tax return, or is no longer a student. The new policy providing access for young adults applies to both married and unmarried children, although employees children’s spouses and employee’s grandchildren do not qualify.
  • All Eligible Young Adults Will Have A Special Enrollment Opportunity. For plan or policy years beginning on or after September 23, 2010, plans and issuers must give children who qualify an opportunity to enroll that continues for at least 30 days regardless of whether the plan or coverage offers an open enrollment period. This enrollment opportunity and a written notice must be provided not later than the first day of the first plan or policy year beginning on or after September 23, 2010. The new policy does not otherwise change the enrollment period or start of the plan or policy year.
  • Same Benefits/Same Price. Any qualified young adult must be offered all of the benefit packages available to similarly situated individuals who did not lose coverage because of cessation of dependent status. The qualified individual cannot be required to pay more for coverage than those similarly situated individuals. The new policy applies only to health insurance plans that offer dependent coverage in the first place: while most insurers and employer-sponsored plans offer dependent coverage, there is no requirement to do so.



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