FRIDAY, June 8, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- About 6.6 million young American adults who would likely not have been able to be covered by their parents' health plans before the Affordable Care Act took effect joined such plans in 2011, a new report finds.
The new study from the Commonwealth Fund found that, in total, 13.7 million young American adults, aged 19 to 25, either stayed on or joined their parents' health plans last year.
But not all young adults can join their parents' health plans and many still have gaps in coverage and are burdened with medical bill problems and medical debt, the report found.
Nearly two in five young adults (39 percent) aged 19 to 29 went without health insurance at some time in 2011 and more than one-third (36 percent) had medical bill problems or were paying off medical debt. Of those who were dealing with medical bills or debt, many faced serious financial consequences such as using all of their savings (43 percent), being unable to make student loan or tuition payments (32 percent), delaying education or career plans (31 percent), or being unable to pay for necessities such as food, heat or rent (28 percent), the researchers said.
One-quarter of young adults with medical debt owed $4,000 or more, and 15 percent owed $8,000 or more, the report noted.
"While the Affordable Care Act has already provided a new source of coverage for millions of young adults at risk of being uninsured, more help is needed for those left behind," lead author and Commonwealth Fund Vice President Sara Collins said in a Commonwealth Fund news release.
Young adults in low-income households were most likely to be uninsured, the report said. Seventy percent of young adults with incomes below 133 percent of poverty ($14,484 for a single person) had a gap in coverage in 2011. That's more than three times the rate of those with incomes over 400 percent of poverty ($43,560 for a single person).
The study also found that only 17 percent of young adults aged 19 to 25 in low-income families stayed on or joined their parents' health plans, compared with 69 percent of those in the highest income households. Young adults older than 25 are not eligible.
Young adults who did not have insurance or had a gap in coverage were more likely than those with continuous coverage to skip or delay getting needed health care because of cost -- 60 percent, 56 percent and 29 percent, respectively.
However, Collins noted that "the law's major insurance provisions slated for 2014, including expanded Medicaid and subsidized private plans through state insurance exchanges, will provide nearly all young adults across the income spectrum with affordable and comprehensive health plans."
The findings are based on an online survey of 1,863 respondents, aged 19 to 29, that was conducted in November 2011.
The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has more about young adults and the Affordable Care Act.