Youthful insured not triggering cost spike

Kao-Ping Chua and Benjamin Sommers, authors of the JAMA study
Kao-Ping Chua and Benjamin Sommers, authors of the JAMA study

While the US is still months away from clocking a full year of insurance coverage under healthcare reform, the impact that coverage is having on the health expenditures of young people is already beginning to surface.

In short: the clause in the Affordable Care Act that allowed children to be covered by a parent's insurance plan until they turned 26 has not been linked to a statistically significant increase in use of health-related services, but has been associated with a decrease in out-of-pocket healthcare costs among 19-to-25-year-olds and improved self-reported health status, according to a research letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Tuesday.

Although the extended coverage became mandatory last year, employers started extending coverage much earlier, and researchers tracked data from the "post-implementation" year of 2011 through 2012.

Researchers acknowledge that the study is a very brief snapshot, since the sample covers just one year of data, but they found that the ACA's dependent coverage extension indicates greater protection against medical costs compared to adults not affected by the law.

While a 2010 report by the Society for Human Resource Management indicated employers were not thrilled by the requirement they would have to extend coverage by 2014, a 2013 assessment by Health Affairs indicated that employers began extending coverage to the under-26 crowd before they had to. HA also noted that this was one provision of the Affordable Care Act that around 70% of the public had down pat, just six months after healthcare reform passed.


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