The Affordable Care Act Has Led to Significant Gains in Health Insurance and Access to Care for Young Adults

The Affordable Care Act enables young adults to remain as dependents on their parents’ health insurance until age 26, and recent evidence suggests that as many as three million young adults have gained coverage as a result.

However, there has been no evidence yet on the policy’s effect on access to care, and questions remain about the coverage impact on important subgroups.

Using data from two nationally representative surveys, comparing young adults who gained access to dependent coverage to a control group (adults ages 26–34) who were not affected by the new policy, the researchers found sizable coverage gains for adults ages 19–25. The gains continued to grow throughout 2011 (up 6.7 percentage points from September 2010 to September 2011), with the largest gains seen in unmarried adults, nonstudents, and men. Analysis of the timing of the policy impact suggested that early gains in coverage were greatest for people in worse health. The researchers also found strong evidence of increased access to care because of the law, with significant reductions in the number of young adults who delayed getting care and in those who did not receive needed care because of cost.