Young Adults Should Love Obamacare

You only need to take a look at the young adult population to see how well the Affordable Care Act is working.

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Kenneth P. Thomas is professor of Political Science and fellow in the Center for International Studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He is the author of "Competing for Capital: Europe and North America in a Global Era" and "Investment Incentives and the Global Competition for Capital." He blogs at Middle Class Political Economist.

As House Republicans prepare to vote on repealing Obamacare for the umpteenth time, it is important to remember that the Affordable Care Act is working precisely as designed. Last year, 12.8 million Americans received health insurance premium rebates because their insurance company didn't spend enough on actual health care costs (80 percent of premiums in the individual market, 85 percent in the large group market). Children cannot be denied health insurance due to pre-existing conditions, a feature that expands to adults next year.

But the biggest indicator of success is the rapidly falling rate at which young adults aged 19-25, who can now stay on their parents' insurance policies, are uninsured. Via Joan McCarter at Daily Kos, the Commonwealth Fund released the results of its biennial health insurance survey. Although the news wasn't all good, the report shows just how much the Affordable Care Act has worked for young adults.

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After already recording a fall from 2009 to 2010, the Commonwealth Fund survey shows that the percentage of young adults uninsured at the time they were interviewed fell from 31 percent in 2010 to just 21 percent in 2012. Amazingly, in light of past experience, young adults had a lower uninsurance rate than those ages 26-49. In addition, the proportion of young adults reporting a period without insurance at any time in the previous year fell from 48 percent to 41 percent.

Moreover, as the table shows, young adults are solely responsible for the overall drop in the uninsured adult population from 20 percent in 2010 to 19 percent in 2012, as they were in the only age group to report a decline.

[Read the U.S. News Debate: Does the Supreme Court's Healthcare Ruling Help Obama?]

This report augurs well for Obamacare's increased success. There was a significant uptake among those newly eligible for health insurance, which should be repeated next year when the individual mandate, the exchanges and subsidies kick in. Although the Supreme Court's decision last year made Obamacare's Medicaid expansion optional for the states, about half of the states will expand immediately, and it is likely that others will eventually do so as well.

Let's hope this process does not take too long. As the Commonwealth Fund report points out, "Of the estimated 55 million adults who had a gap in coverage in 2012, 87 percent had incomes that would make them eligible for subsidized health insurance under the law." While Obamacare does not take us all the way to universal coverage, it will get us most of the way there, reducing the financial burden of health care and increasing economic security for tens of millions.

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