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America's Young Adults: Special Issue, 2014

Health Insurance

Until 2011, young adults ages 18–24 were more likely than other adult age groups to be uninsured and, when insured, were the least likely to have private health insurance.23 For young adults, lack of or disruption of health insurance coverage can create barriers to health care and leave young adults vulnerable to high out-of-pocket medical expenses in the event of a serious illness or injury.24 In 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law. This law requires insurers to allow parents to keep adult children on their plans until age 26.25

Indicator Econ4: Percentage of young adults ages 18–24 covered by health insurance at time of interview by type of health insurance,1993–2012
Percentage of young adults ages 18–24 covered by health insurance at time of interview by type of health insurance,1993–2012

NOTE: Medicaid or other public health insurance includes Medicaid, Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and state-sponsored health plans. A small number of young adults were covered by both Medicaid or other public health insurance and private insurance and are only included in the private insurance coverage group.

SOURCE: Center for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey.

  • In 2012, 25 percent of young adults ages 18–24 were currently uninsured, 58 percent of young adults currently had private health insurance, and 15 percent currently had coverage under Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or another state program.
  • There was no significant trend between 1993 and 2010 in the percentage of young adults who were uninsured. However, between 2010 and 2012, the percentage decreased from 31 to 25 percent.
  • The percentage of young adults with private insurance increased between 1993 and 1999, and then decreased between 1999 and 2010. However, between 2010 and 2012, the percentage of young adults with private insurance increased from 52 to 58 percent.
  • The percentage of young adults with Medicaid or other public insurance decreased between 1993 and 1999, and then increased from 8 to 15 percent between 1999 and 2012.
  • In 2012, a higher percentage of males (28 percent) were uninsured compared with females (21 percent). In contrast, a higher percentage of females (19 percent) had Medicaid or other public insurance compared with males (11 percent).
  • In 2012, a higher percentage of Hispanic young adults (44 percent) were uninsured compared with Black, non-Hispanic (28 percent) and White, non-Hispanic (17 percent) young adults.

table icon YAECON4 HTML Table

23 National Center for Health Statistics. (2009). Health, United States, 2008, with special feature on the health of young adults. Hyattsville, MD: Author.

24 Collins, S.R., Robertson, R., Garber, T., and Doty, M.M. (2012). Young, uninsured, and in debt: Why young adults lack health insurance and how the Affordable Care Act is helping: Findings from the Commonwealth Fund Health Insurance Tracking Survey of Young Adults, 2011. Issue Brief (Commonw Fund), 14, 1–24.

25 Goldman, T.R. (2013). Health Policy Brief: Young adults and the Affordable Care Act. Health Affairs. Retrieved from http://www.healthaffairs.org/healthpolicybriefs/brief.php?brief_id=105.