The Importance of Young Adult Provisions in Massachusetts' Health Reform

Since Massachusetts passed comprehensive health reform legislation in 2006, the state’s uninsurance rate is significantly better than the national average. However, a disproportionate number—85 percent—of those still uninsured are nonelderly adults. In order to reach and enroll this population, policy-makers need to know more about who the uninsured are, and where they live.

Two new reports from authors at the State Health Access Reform Evaluation (SHARE) program and the Urban Institute, examine the demographics of this uninsured population and analyze the importance of implementing young adult provisions in Massachusetts’ health reform. Sharon K. Long, Ph.D., senior economist at the State Health Access Data Assistance Center (SHADAC), was the lead author for both.

The first paper, “Massachusetts Health Reform in 2008: Who are the Remaining Uninsured Adults?” finds that adults who continue to be uninsured in the state are more likely to be male, young and single, members of racial/ethnic minority groups, non-citizens and/or unable to speak English well compared to those with insurance. They also have substantially lower education levels, less employment, lower family income and greater financial stress than their insured peers.

In “The Importance of Young Adult Provisions in Massachusetts’ Health Reform,” the authors compare health insurance coverage before and after Massachusetts’ 2006 legislation to determine how effective the state has been at expanding coverage to young adults. The authors find that supplementing reform efforts with targeted programs to reduce costs is an effective way to expand coverage among young adults.

Formerly with the Urban Institute, Long recently joined SHADAC. SHARE operates out of SHADAC, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded research center in the Division of Health Policy and Management, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota.