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ACA May Mean Healthier Young Adults, Study Suggests

Coverage through parent's plan might also protect against medical costs, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, June 18, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A popular provision of the Affordable Care Act that allows young adults to stay on a parent's health insurance plan up to age 26 may be good for their health and financial security, a new study suggests. The study was published as a research letter in the June 18 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Kao-Ping Chua, M.D., of Boston Children's Hospital, and Benjamin D. Sommers, M.D., Ph.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health, drew up a sample of more than 60,000 people participating in an annual U.S. households survey from 2002 to 2011, removing data from 2010, the year the dependent coverage provision took effect. The research team followed two groups: young people, ages 19 to 25, and a control group of adults, ages 26 to 34, before and after the coverage provision's implementation. This allowed researchers to filter out any changes affecting the entire health system and to isolate the effects of expanding coverage just to the younger group.

The study linked dependent coverage to a 7.2 percentage-point bump in insurance coverage among young adults, as well as self-reported increases in physical and mental health. Having that coverage is associated with a 6.2 percentage-point increase in the probability of young adults reporting excellent health and a 4 percentage-point gain in mental health, compared with a group of somewhat older peers, the study authors said.

The study shows that "insurance coverage makes a difference for many types of people, including relatively healthy young adults," Chua told HealthDay.

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