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More young adults have health insurance Posted: June 13th, 2012

By Barbara Marquand

Although a greater share of Americans overall are uninsured today than before the economy tanked in 2008, one group actually is better off when it comes to health insurance coverage -- young adults.

Twenty-three percent of 18- to 25-year-olds do not have health insurance, down from a peak of 28.7 percent in 2009, according to Gallup.

The uninsured rate among young adults has declined since September 2010, when a federal health care reform provision went into effect allowing adults up to age 26 to stay on their parents' health plans.

Up to that time, rules varied by state and by insurance company. Unless young adults had coverage through work, many simply went without health insurance.

After an initial decline, the uninsured rate among 18- to 25-year-olds hit a plateau at about 24 percent in 2011, until falling again this year.

The trend isn't so favorable for 26- to 64-year-olds, who now are more likely to be uninsured than four years ago. Right now, 19.6 percent are uninsured, up from 15 percent in January 2008, when the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index began tracking health insurance coverage rates.

Many working-age adults lost coverage when they were laid off during the recession, or their companies stopped offering health insurance. Forty-four percent of adults reported getting health insurance through an employer in the most recent Gallup survey, down from almost 50 percent in January 2008.

Very few seniors lack health insurance because people 65 and older qualify for Medicare. Just 3 percent of Americans 65 and older are uninsured, according to Gallup.

It's unclear what will happen to the health care reform provision allowing young adults to stay on their parents' health plans. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to announce its ruling on the constitutionality of aspects of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by the end of June.

Three big health insurance companies have pledged to continue offering some of the consumer protections guaranteed by health care reform, regardless of how the Supreme Court rules. UnitedHealth Group Inc. announced June 11 it would continue to let dependents up to age 26 stay on their parent's health plans and would continue to cover preventive care without charging co-payments. Humana Inc. and Aetna Inc. followed later that day with similar announcements.

Both UnitedHealth and Humana also said they would maintain a simple appeals process for coverage denials and not set limits on lifetime policy benefits or retroactively cancel individual health insurance policies, except in cases of fraud. Aetna pledged to maintain outside review of coverage denial appeals.