By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of young adults lacking medical coverage has shrunk by 2.5 million since the new health care overhaul law took effect, according to a new analysis the Obama administration is to release Wednesday.
That drop is 2½ times as large as the drop indicated by previous government and private estimates from earlier this year, which showed about 1 million Americans ages 19-25 had gained coverage.
Administration officials said they now have more data. They say they're also slicing the numbers more precisely than the government usually does, trying to pinpoint the impact of a popular provision in an otherwise politically divisive law.
Under the health overhaul, children can remain on their parents' health insurance plans until they turn 26, and families have flocked to sign up young adults making the transition to work in a challenging economic environment. But the fate of President Barack Obama's signature domestic accomplishment remains uncertain, with the Supreme Court scheduled to hear a constitutional challenge next year, and
Republican presidential candidates vowing to repeal it.
"The increase in coverage among 19- to 25-year-olds can be directly attributed to the Affordable Care Act's new dependent coverage provision," said a draft report from the Health and Human Services Department. "Initial gains from this policy have continued to grow as ... students graduate from high school and college." A copy of the report was obtained by The Associated Press.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is scheduled to release the findings Wednesday.
The health care law's main push to cover the uninsured doesn't come until 2014. But the young adults' provision took effect last fall. Most workplace health plans started carrying it out Jan. 1.
Using unpublished quarterly statistics from the government's ongoing National Health Interview Survey, analysts in Sebelius' policy office determined that nearly 36% of those age 19-25 were uninsured in the third calendar quarter of 2010, before the law's provision took effect.
That translates to more than 10.5 million people.