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Calling young adults: Has Obamacare lowered your costs and improved your health?

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40984 full

Earlier this week, I told you how the Affordable Care Act has proven to be a "godsend" for Nikki Lang, a 22-year-old musician with Type 1 diabetes.

Thanks to the law, she can stay on her family's insurance until age 26. When she ages out of that plan, she can buy her own insurance, without worrying that she'll be denied coverage due to her preexisting condition.

Turns out, the provision of the federal health law that allows young people to stay on their parents' insurance through age 26 has had an impact on many others, too.

Cheaper costs, better health

A new article in the Journal of the American Medical Association says that since that provision took effect in 2010, adults younger than 26 have:

  • saved on out-of-pocket costs, including copays and deductibles
  • reported better physical and mental health

That's compared with people 26 to 34, who were too old to benefit from the provision.

The study drew on information in an annual survey of U.S. health expenditures. It compared the eight years before the law's passage, with the first year after it.

Insurance 'doing what it’s supposed to'

In an interview posted on the JAMA website, report author Dr. Kao-Ping Chua, a pediatrician at Boston Children's Hospital, said:

The biggest finding is that the share of all healthcare expenditures paid out-of-pocket decreased, by about 3.7 percentage points. That suggests that having health insurance is doing what it’s supposed to be doing protecting people against the high cost of health care.

More details

Reporter Noam Levey, of the Los Angeles Times, further broke down those costs.

He wrote that as insurance coverage increased among young adults, their out-of-pocket expenses declined from an average of $546.11 in the period before the health law to $490 in 2011. For the older group, he wrote, these costs increased from an average of $626.66 to $644.82.

About 27 percent of young adults reported themselves in excellent physical health before passage of the law; that increased to 31 percent after the law, Levy wrote. Meanwhile, 23 percent of the older group reported themselves in excellent physical health before passage of the law, that fell to 21 percent after the law.

What the study doesn't tell us

Dr. Chua, the report's author, acknowledged the study sample was 73 percent white, so "future research would need to address the differences in health spending among racial and ethnic groups."

Also, he said, this report didn't include objective health measures, such as blood pressure screenings.

"It would be interesting to look at the effect of this provision (of the Affordable Care Act) on objective health measures using other data sets," he said.

If you're a young adult, what's your experience with the Affordable Care Act? Has it changed how much you pay for care, or how you feel? Tell us about it in the comments section below, or e-mail us at Your experience could inform a future post.

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