Thanks, Obamacare: 5 Ways the ACA is Working for Millennials

By Jessica Adair

Five years ago today, the president signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as the ACA and Obamacare, into law. 

Here are five ways the ACA has changed health insurance for “Young Invincibles”:

1) More people have gained access to health coverage. Before the ACA became law, many people were excluded from buying health insurance, either because they couldn’t afford it or were denied coverage due to their health. Since the Affordable Care Act passed, 16.4 million uninsured people have gained health coverage, resulting in a 30% drop in the uninsurance rate — one of the largest declines in decades.

Many people who have gotten covered hail from populations that have historically lacked health insurance coverage. The uninsured rate has dropped by over 9% among African Americans and over 12% among Latinos. Young adults, another group that had suffered from low rates of health coverage, have also seen a spike in coverage. An estimated 5.7 million young adults between the ages of 19 and 25 have gotten covered since the ACA was passed. Since Millennials end up in the emergency room more than any age group except for the elderly, this is a major win for our generation.

5.7million-graphic2) Young adults can now stay covered on a parent’s plan until they turn 26. Before the ACA, young adults were often kicked off of a parent’s plan when they turned 18 or 22 years old. Staying on a parent’s plan is a big help, especially to students, part-time workers and those struggling to find full-time work with benefits. Young adults are still digging out of the economic hole left by the Great Recession, and combating higher unemployment rates than those seen by other age groups. Even those who are employed may not have access to health insurance — a quarter of young adults are working part-time. Staying on a parent’s plan can provide consistent care and great financial relief.

3) We’re saving money on health care. Thanks to tax credits and other subsidies, health insurance is more affordable than ever before. During last year’s Open Enrollment period, 8 in 10 people who enrolled in coverage through paid $100 a month or less for a comprehensive health insurance plan. And all health insurance companies must now spend the majority of health insurance premiums on actual health care, saving consumers billions of dollars.  

More broadly, the ACA helped stem skyrocketing health care spending in the United States. Health insurance companies must compete for consumers on, forcing companies to cut prices — last year, premium costs for Marketplace plans fell an average of 0.2 percent. Even those with health coverage from a job have seen slower growth in the cost of their premiums and most now have a plan that limits out-of pocket expenses.

4) The ACA makes huge steps towards health care equality. Before the ACA, health insurance companies could, and did, discriminate against many populations, including women, people with health conditions and members of the LGBT community

Now, women cannot be charged more than men for health insurance based on gender (how about instead: insurance companies can discriminate based on gender), nor can health insurance companies deny coverage for people with health conditions, such as cancer, asthma or even pregnancy. 

The ACA has also made great strides for the LGBT community. Insurance plans offered through the Marketplace can no longer deny people or charge people a higher price based on gender identity or sexual orientation, and same-sex married couples can receive financial assistance equal to their heterosexual counterparts. 

5) The ACA helps America stay healthy. Most insurance plans offer a wide range of preventive services at no cost to consumers, such as vaccines and screenings for common health conditions. An estimated 76 million Americans are now eligible for these preventive services.

Studies show that young adults are taking advantage of their new coverage. Since the ACA was passed, health care providers have seen “significant increases” of young adults making appointments for routine check ups, blood pressure screenings and other services to make sure their health is in good shape. This, too, is not just good for health, but potentially for cost savings. As the adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Next steps
While the ACA has been the greatest leap for boosting access to health care that we’ve seen in years, we still have much progress to make, particularly when it comes to young adults. Through the ACA, states have the option to expand access to Medicaid, free health coverage for low-income adults.

If all states expanded Medicaid eligibility, over 15 million adults would be able to access health care, over half of whom are under the age of 35. Here at Young Invincibles, we’re building a movement to expand health care access to low-income young adults. Click here to learn more about our work to close the coverage gap!


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