Health Law Bodes Well For Young People's Coverage, Isn't Helping Democrats

The New York Times reports that young people — representing nearly one-third of the 46 million uninsured in America — stand to "reap substantial benefits" from expanded coverage for them in the new health law.

The group, broadly defined as those aged 19-29, stand to benefit through "public programs like Medicaid or by buying private policies on competitive insurance exchanges established by the law. … In late September, insurers "will be required to cover children on family health plans through age 25, and many companies are making the change now so new college graduates do not face gaps in coverage." In addition, 7.1 million people will be eligible for Medicaid starting in 2014 because their income will be less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level, about $14,000 for an individual. "And up to 5.6 million uninsured young people will qualify for government subsidies if they buy private coverage through the insurance exchanges" (Rabin, 5/24).

In a consumer column, Kaiser Health News/The Washington Post reports that for some students who can't take advantage of their parents' health plans (or whose parents don't have coverage) "student health plans may be the only option. And unfortunately, many college plans offer limited protection, even for this generally healthy group. 'Sixty percent of the plans out there are pure junk,' says Stephen Beckley, a health-care management consultant for colleges and universities who's based in Fort Collins, Colo. In some important ways, the new law has the potential to stiffen the backbone of student plans. Starting in October, all health plans, including college ones, must eliminate lifetime limits on coverage and most annual limits as well." A government report found that in the past, nearly all student plans had imposed maximum lifetime benefits (Andrews, 5/25).

The San Jose Mercury News:  "Though reforms in the much-hyped federal health care legislation won't unfold fully until the end of the decade, young adults, small businesses and Medicare recipients can benefit as soon as this summer, and already people are shopping for better care." Insurance brokers are reporting that they are providing information to potential customers on the changes and that a report "released last week, the most detailed yet on how the federal legislation will play out locally, anticipates that 34,000 of the county's currently 44,000 uninsured will be covered by 2018. The gains will begin this year, the report confirms" (Alexander, 5/24). 

The Associated Press: On the political side of health law implementation, the picture isn't so rosy for Democrats. "Two months after Obama's health care overhaul narrowly passed Congress, polls suggest many Americans still either don't like the looming health care changes or are skeptical of them — and Republicans are seizing on that discontent at every opportunity" (Raum, 5/24).

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