Health Insurance Lacking for More U.S. Young Adults

Article excerpt

The number of uninsured U.S. young adults rose again in 2006, with Hispanic and black Americans at greatest risk for lacking coverage.

A Commonwealth Fund issue brief released in May found the number of uninsured adults ages 19-29 rose to 13.7 million in 2006. Adults in that age group represent the largest and fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population without health insurance. Nearly half of uninsured young adults are white, according to the study, but Hispanics are disproportionately represented, making up 19 percent of adults ages 19-29 but 33 percent of uninsured young adults. Overall, 36 percent of black young adults and 53 percent of Hispanic young adults are uninsured, compared with 23 percent of whites in that age group.

"Lack of coverage and access to health care services put the health of young adults at risk and can subject them, and their families, to potentially dire financial consequences," said Sara Collins, co-author of the issue brief and Commonwealth Fund vice president.

The report found 66 percent of young adults who had a time without insurance coverage in the past year had gone without needed medical care because of cost, and half reported problems paying medical bills or were paying off medical debt over time.

Efforts to address the problem include legislation passed in 20 states that requires insurance companies to extend dependent coverage past ages 18 or 19, raising the age to at least 24. A recent federal bill would extend insurance to children of federal workers to age 25.

Because a majority of uninsured young adults have low incomes, the report also suggested extending Medicaid and State Children's Health Insurance Program eligibility beyond age 18. For example, extending eligibility to age 25 would cover up to 7. …