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Health Care Reform:

Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

HEALTH REFORM: Young Adults May Be Key to Making It All Work

Will they buy into the idea of insurance coverage? Experts are split on that question

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He recently learned about the insurance exchanges and hopes to find suitable, affordable coverage.

Starting in 2014, under the health reform law, health insurance plans can't refuse coverage or charge more because of a pre-existing condition. And young uninsured people like Byrd can use the exchange where they live to buy an individual health plan and potentially qualify for federal tax credits to help offset the cost.

Those subsidies are available to people who make between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level. In dollar terms, that's $11,490 to $45,960 for an individual.

Millennials making more than 400 percent of the federal poverty level won't qualify for tax credits but may use the exchanges to shop for coverage. In states that have released information about health plan premiums, "rates are coming in relatively competitively," said Collins, the Commonwealth Fund economist.

Young people with very low incomes -- up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level -- may have still another option.

In 2014, 24 states and the District of Columbia will expand their Medicaid programs to cover low-income people, starting at age 19, based solely on income. If you're eligible, you will receive free or low-cost care and won't have to buy coverage through the exchange.

The Young Invincibles' Postolowksi estimated that 17 million of the 19 million currently uninsured young people between the ages of 18 and 34 could potentially qualify for tax credits through the health exchanges or Medicaid, if all states expanded Medicaid.

Student and dependent coverage

Young adults have a few other options for getting health insurance.

College students can enroll in a student health plan through their school. Under the health reform law, most plans must meet the same requirements as other individual plans, meaning no annual limits or lifetime caps on coverage and no exclusions for pre-existing conditions, Postolowski said.

Or, if they're under age 26, they can enroll in a parent's health plan if the plan provides dependent coverage.

Beginning in 2014, there's a new wrinkle: Adult children can enroll in mom or dad's health plan even if they have an offer of coverage through their employer or through their school, Postolowski explained.

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