Why It Matters

We all know that our broken health care system failed to serve the needs of Americans. That is why the historic passage of reform legislation was so vital to our country’s future prosperity. But few people understood how necessary that change was to young adults.

In 2010, the number of uninsured young adults climbed to 21 million people, accounting for approximately one third of the total uninsured population. Many people brush off this statistic as evidence that healthy young people merely choose not to buy insurance. But this is simply not true.

Already, the number of uninsured young adults is decreasing thanks to the health reform law. About 3.1 million young Americans have gained coverage thanks to a provision of the law that lets young adults stay on their parent’s plan until age 26.

Young people do get sick. They have the highest rate of injury-related emergency department visits among all age groups under age 75. About 15 percent of young Americans have a chronic condition. Nearly one in ten report having a mental health condition. Young adults need health care, and that means they need insurance.

Contrary to the conventional wisdom, young people do not purchase health coverage because they think they’re invincible. They just can’t afford it. More than two thirds of people ages 18 to 29 make less than $46,000 a year. The 23 percent of young adults living below the federal poverty level account for 41 percent of all uninsured young Americans. A Gallup survey confirmed that the main reason young people don’t have health insurance is cost, not choice.

Young people without insurance are likely to be sicker than those who have it. And the inability to afford health care can have dire consequences. By one estimate, 5.2 preventable deaths a day occurred in the year 2000 among adults aged 25 to 34 due solely to the lack of insurance.

Find out why you should get covered
Learn about what’s coming next with health care reform
In college? Read about college plans
Take action by joining our Healthy Young America campaign
Ready to Wonk out? View our glossary to learn more.

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