Officials link gain in young adult health coverage to reform law

Health insurance coverage among young adults has increased while coverage for other age groups barely budged, a change that federal officials are linking to last year’s health reform law, which lets children stay on their parents’ health plans until turning 26.

The percentage of Americans aged 19 to 25 with health insurance rose from 66.1 percent in 2010 to 69.6 percent in the first quarter of 2011, an increase of about 1 million people, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Despite the increase, young adults were insured at a lower rate than other age groups, whose level of coverage went from 85.9 percent to 86.3 percent.

Other data found similar results. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index Survey, released this week, found that the rate of insured adults aged 18 to 25 rose from 71 percent in the first quarter of 2010 to 75.2 percent in the first quarter of 2011. And the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, released earlier this month, found that more young adults aged 18 to 24 had health insurance in 2010 than in 2009.

The change is likely to be less pronounced in Connecticut, where state law required insurance plans to cover members’ children until age 26 before federal law did. But federal health reform extended the option to many in Connecticut because the state law did not apply to self-insured plans, which are common among large companies.