Legacies of The Affordable Care Act: Staying on Your Parents' Plan By Nicky Riordan
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has undoubtedly impacted healthcare in America irrespective of what may become of the law moving forward. Never has this been clearer than over the past few months as Republicans tried and failed to repeal the ACA, even with majorities in both chambers of Congress. This ongoing series highlights the legacies of the ACA, beginning with the most obvious and then shifting to more subtle changes. Previously, I discussed shifting perspectives on the mandated coverage of preexisting conditions. This piece will focus on young adults being able to stay on their parents’ insurance plan until the age of 26.
This provision was one of the first to take effect - within the first 6 months of the law’s passage - and it had an immediate and substantial impact on the marketplace. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report in 2013 stating that the “percentage of adults ages 19 to 25 with personal plans fell from 41 percent in 2010 to just over 27 percent in 2012,” while the percentage of those covered through a family plan rose by 14 percent over the same period.
Many conservative critics see this provision as a “critical mistake” that reduced market share for a primarily healthy demographic. At the same time, a 2016 Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll found that 8 in 10 Republicans generally viewed the provision “very” or “somewhat” favorably, as did 9 in 10 Democrats. This rare bipartisan perspective has forced Congressional Republicans to include the provision in their various attempts to repeal and replace the ACA.
President-Elect Trump endorsed keeping the provision in an interview with 60 minutes following the election, acknowledging the fact that it “adds costs, but it’s very much something we are going to try and keep.” The provision was also part of GOP House and Senate healthcare bills.
In a conversation with Chelsea Handler at Politicon in July, conservative commentator Tomi Lahren admitted to being on her parent’s insurance plan and reacted to cajoling from the crowd by defending most Republicans and Trump supporters who “don’t believe that every single tenet of Obamacare is bad.”
The idea to give young adults the choice to remain on a family plan is not new. It has been around for more than 20 years and was mandated in some states prior to the ACA. States, such as New Jersey, previously allowed dependents to stay on a family plan until the age of 31. The American Medical Association has advocated for this kind of policy since 1995.
The provision has only recently become well-known to the general public due to the passage of the ACA and significant gains in insurance coverage among this demographic. In 2010, those between the ages of 18 and 25 had the highest uninsured rate among non-elderly adults. By 2015, that rate had decreased by 52 percent.
It's clear that health care and insurance reform efforts moving forward will have to include this provision, or something like it, to have any chance of passing without political repercussions. And although there are merits to the arguments concerned about its mpact on the marketplace, the provision does allow breathing room for young adults as they enter an uncertain economy and is an important fail safe until more robust reforms can make private insurance more affordable overall.
Nicky Riordan (@nriordan120), Political Analyst, Utica College Center of Public Affairs and Election Research