Adults aged 19 to 29 are the biggest group of the newly uninsured, according to an independent research group’s report released on Wednesday.
That age group made up 30 percent of the 45 million Americans without health insurance in 2005, according to the nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund.
Young adults, many who are just entering the workforce and can’t afford the high cost of individual insurance, are the big drivers of an increase in uninsured adults, the report said.
“They are at a vulnerable place in the labor market,” said study author Sara Collins, an assistant vice president at the fund.
Fending for themselves
U.S. employers, especially smaller businesses, are increasingly opting not to offer health insurance, leaving workers to fend for themselves in the health insurance market.
“If you don’t get coverage through your employer, you’re left to the individual market, and it’s a very difficult market to negotiate,” Collins said.
Health insurance officials often cite their efforts to market to uninsured young adults. Insurers describe this demographic as the “young invincibles,” saying this group adopts an attitude that their youth protects them and therefore they do not need insurance.
U.S. Census and other data cited by the report show 40 percent of the uninsured young are in households earning less than the federal poverty level.
Seventeen U.S. states, where many health care reforms are incubated, have passed laws requiring insurance companies to cover dependent children until at least age 24. Most of these reforms have been passed in the last two years, the report said.
On the federal level, a bill in the House of Representatives to expand the states’ Childrens’ Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) would cover kids and young adults up to age 25 in families that are not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid.
Benefits under S-CHIP, which covers about 6.6 million people, and Medicaid, which covers about 50 million children and adults, expire at age 19.
Most Democratic lawmakers support some expansion of the program, but Republicans have criticized the adult provision as overly generous.
President George W. Bush has threatened to veto the bill, arguing it would lead to government-controlled healthcare.