Like all other individuals, young adults will be required by federal law to purchase health insurance with the specific benefits the federal government says they must have, regardless of whether they want to pay for them and regardless of whether those benefits are useful to them. For instance, young single males will be required to purchase a plan that has maternity benefits and well-baby coverage.
Benefits of Reform
Young adults up to age 26 (whether married or unmarried) are now able to enroll in their parents’ health plans. Currently, this option is limited to children who do not have access to an employer plan. However, beginning in 2014, children will be able to join or stay on their parents’ plan even if they have access to an employer plan of their own.
Costs of Reform
Most young people are healthier and have lower expected costs than older adults. For example, people in their 20s today typically face premiums that are only one-fifth or one-sixth as high as people in their 60s. The likelihood of ill health, and therefore the cost of health insurance, tends to rise with age, but fortunately so does income. People in their 50s and 60s typically pay higher premiums, but their higher incomes allow them to do so.
Regulations that take effect in 2014 will dramatically change things, however. Insurers will be required to accept all applicants at rates that are not adjusted for health status. Also, premiums can be adjusted for age, but the highest premium can exceed the lowest one by no more than a ratio of three to one. This means that young adults will face premiums that will be much higher than their expected cost so that older, less healthy adults can pay premiums that will be much lower than their expected costs.
The result: Young adults will have to pay a lot more for their coverage, perhaps even double or triple their current premium. For example, studies based on actual insurance claims data reach the following conclusions.
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