Health reform shields young adults from emergency medical costs, study finds

A new federal law allowing young adults to remain on their parents' medical insurance until age 25 has shielded them, their families and hospitals from the full financial consequences of serious medical emergencies, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

Examining use during the first year after the federal Affordable Care Act provision went into effect, researchers estimate that $147 million in nondiscretionary medical care was newly covered by . Without the new regulation, those costs would have been paid by young people and their families, or been written off by hospitals as uncompensated care.

The study, published in the May 30 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, estimates that more than 22,000 nondiscretionary during 2011 involved young adults who were newly insured under the provision. The change increased health insurance rates by 3 percent among the young adults needing care in emergency departments nationwide during the period.

"The change allowing young people to remain on their parents' medical insurance is protecting young adults and their families from the significant posed by emergency medical care," said Andrew Mulcahy, the paper's lead author and a health policy researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. "Hospitals are benefitting, too, because they are treating fewer uninsured young people for emergency ailments."

Under one of the first provisions of the Act to go into force, commercial beginning in September 2010 were required to allow young adults up to age 25 to retain coverage under their parents' insurance.

Previous studies have shown that the provision significantly increased the number of insured young adults. One recent report estimates that the provision is associated with an additional 3.1 million insured young adults nationally.

RAND researchers examined emergency department care for serious injuries and illnesses provided after the provision went into effect in order to examine the role that the coverage expansion has played in providing protection to young people and health care providers.

Researchers examined details about emergency medical care provided to adults aged 19 to 31 at a diverse national group of 392 hospitals from January 2008 through December 2011.

Experts examined cases to determine which ones could be considered nondiscretionary in nature. Researchers wanted to analyze only cases that involved serious or painful illnesses and injuries that are likely to prompt patients to seek care in an emergency department regardless of whether they have insurance. Only 6 percent of emergency department visits met those criteria.

The study compared insurance status among those aged 19 to 25 with people who were aged 26 to 31, who were unaffected by the new provision of the health law. This provided a means for researchers to analyze whether changes in insurance coverage among the younger group was caused by trends other than the new health law.

"Our findings show that young adults not only are more likely to have insurance coverage after the provision went into force, but they and hospitals also have improved financial protection," Mulcahy said. "Because we looked at only the most-serious emergency cases to rule out the influence of insurance on the decision to seek health care, we probably underestimate the full financial benefits that the new rules have provided to who need urgent medical care."

Related Stories

After age 18, asthma care deteriorates

date Apr 22, 2013

It is widely accepted that medical insurance helps older adults with chronic health problems to receive better care. But what about young adults between the ages of 18 and 25, a demographic that also tends to have the lowest ...

Health premiums could rise 17 pct for young adults

date Mar 29, 2010

(AP) -- Health insurance premiums for young adults are expected to rise about 17 percent once they're required to buy insurance four years from now. That estimate is from an analysis by Rand Health.

Recommended for you

Soldiers cite 'Medic!' as a top hearing priority

date 2 hours ago

'Medic!', 'Hold fire!' and grid references are amongst the highest priorities for soldiers to be able to hear while on duty, according to new research from the University of Southampton.

New measures identified for newborn care in Uganda

date 3 hours ago

In Uganda, child mortality rates are improving, but progress is slower for deaths occurring in the first four weeks of life, or the newborn period, and for stillbirths. But recent evidence from local researchers ...

Should men cut back on their soy intake?

date 6 hours ago

Recently, a friend called my husband to inquire about the risks for men in consuming too much soy milk. He had read an article that described how one individual's plight led him down the path of breast enlargement, and was ...

Probing Question: What is umami?

date 6 hours ago

The next time you're at a dinner party and want to spice up the conversation, you might compliment the hosts on their umami-rich appetizers. Then wait a moment until someone invariably asks, "What's umami?"

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.