According to a new Commonwealth Fund study published Friday, Obamacare has sharply reduced the number of young Americans lacking health coverage, reversing a decade-long trend that saw a rise in the ranks of the young and uninsured. The study also finds that uninsurance rates for Americans as a whole remained relatively unchanged, leading the authors to emphasize that full implementation of the Affordable Care Act will be critical to securing Americans’ health coverage.
The report, based on a biennial survey of Americans’ access to health insurance, found that adults aged 19 to 25 had seen their uninsurance rates fall “from 48 percent in 2010 to 41 percent in 2012, from 13.6 million [young adults] to 11.7 million — a decline of 1.9 million.” And those are just the numbers for a single year — since the health care law was passed in 2010, a full 3.4 million young Americans have become newly-insured. That represents a 10 percent upward swing in two years:
Researchers say that this positive development is almost entirely a consequence of Obamacare’s provision allowing adults up to age 26 to remain on their parents’ health plans. Still, 46 percent of all adults, or “an estimated 84 million people, did not have insurance for the full year or were underinsured and unprotected from high out-of-pocket costs” in 2012. Addressing these Americans’ high medical costs and lack of access to health insurance demonstrates the need to carefully implement the rest of the health care law, as highlighted by Obamacare’s success in providing young Americans with coverage.
But that could be difficult given conservative critics’ steadfast opposition to all things Obamacare, which is bolstered by the media’s predilection for pouncing on any potential problems with the law — regardless of whether or not such claims are housed in reality. In particular, GOP governors who remain reticent to take part in Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion could end up undermining reform by denying health benefits to some of America’s most vulnerable populations — and prevent the same kind of progress being seen with young adults from taking hold with U.S. adults at large.