When the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed on March 23, 2010, everyone knew that our health care system was going to change, but no one knew what those changes would look like in practice.
This uncertainty made room for speculation about the effectiveness of the reform, with some saying that it would actually harm Americans, not help them. On the one year anniversary of the legislation, we had yet to see many publicly lauded provisions (the dependent coverage clause, the Patient’s Bill of Rights, and insurance exchanges) kick into effect.
Well, ladies and gents, I'm pleased to report that is no longer the case. Insurance companies are starting to release their first quarter enrollment numbers and the results are astonishing. A report released by the Kaiser Family Foundation this week finds that 600,000 young adults are now covered by their parents health insurance thanks to the ACA. According to the report, “WellPoint, the nation's largest publicly traded health insurer with 34 million customers, said the dependent provision was responsible for adding 280,000 new members.” That’s about one third of WellPoint’s total enrollment growth in the first three months of 2011. Wowza. Other companies' numbers are impressive, too. Aetna added just under 100,000 young adults; Kaiser Permanente, about 90,000; Highmark Inc., about 72,000; Health Care Service Corp., about 82,000; Blue Shield of California, about 22,000, and United Healthcare, about 13,000.
And that’s not all. Yesterday, Gallup released a poll that shows the rate of uninsurance amongst Americans ages 18-24 dropped a record 4% in the past calendar year, thanks (again!) to the dependent coverage clause in the ACA. This is significant because prior to the passage of the ACA, young Americans were most likely to be uninsured due to a tough job market, insurance plans that didn’t cover adult children who were no longer in school, and the fact that young people seem to think they’re invincible.
600,000 is a great start, but it's just that: a start. If you are between 18-24 and not sure what your health insurance is going to look like as you graduate, take a job, or go to college, find out how you can get covered (or keep your coverage) with the Young Invincibles' Graduation Toolkit. It explains anything and everything you need to know about health insurance.
Now on this whole health reform thing, I really hate to say “we told you so”... so I won’t. Health reform is going to be a long, difficult process that requires both sides to come to the table to work out the kinks in the law. However, I will say this: the Affordable Care Act may not be perfect, but it is working. Over half a million young Americans now have access to health care services, which was the entire point of health care reform in the first place.