Evaluating the Impact of Extending Dependent Coverage to Young Adults Under Health Reform

Dates of Project: May 2008 through May 2013

Description: The Rutgers Center for State Health Policy studied the effects of laws requiring that young adults be allowed to obtain health insurance as dependents on a parent’s private health plan until they reach age 26. Researchers initially looked at the effects of coverage mandates at the state level, and then under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010.

Key Findings

  • Expanding insurance coverage for dependents at the state level prior to the ACA:

    • Resulted in small increases in dependent coverage, which were offset by declines in insurance provided by young adults’ own employers.
    • Had no observable impact on the young adult uninsured rate.
  • In contrast, in the early months of implementation of the ACA, the requirement for dependent coverage:

    • Led to a rapid and substantial increase in the number of young adults with dependent coverage.
    • Reduced the uninsured rate in the young adult population.

“The sheer magnitude of the impact surprised a lot of people. It was extremely rapid and big, with quite a substantial reduction in the uninsured.”—Joel Cantor, ScD, project director and director of the Rutgers Center for State Health Policy

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#ACA led many young adults to be covered as dependents & their uninsured rate dropped 4.5 percentage points