Young adults increase employer-sponsored insurance as their employment rates fall: Evidence the Affordable Care Act works
On Tuesday, Sept. 13, after the U.S. Census Bureau presented the latest data on income, poverty, and health insurance coverage for 2010, many wondered whether we’d see any effects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly know as health reform, in this release.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius argued that we did. In her piece, “Affordable Care Act in Action,” published in the White House blog, Secretary Sebelius pointed out the significant increase in coverage rates for young adults, ages 18-24, as a sign that health reform is working. Sara Collins, Tracy Garber, and Karen Davis of the Commonwealth Fund argued as well that young adults are already benefiting from the Affordable Care Act, using as evidence the 2.0 percentage point decline in the uninsured rate for young adults. Writer Jonathan Cohn with the telling title “Gosh, Could Obamacare Be Working” makes a similar argument, using a nice graphic as well.
All three articles rightfully point to the fact that the uninsured rate for young adults, 18-24, fell between 2009 and 2010 and, in fact, this was the only age group with a statistically significant decline in their uninsurance rate. They argue that the provision of health reform allowing young adults up to age 26 to stay on or join their parents’ employer-sponsored health insurance policy, is to credit for this up-tick in coverage.
An alternative explanation for the rise in insurance coverage among young adults could be that they are simply faring better in the labor market than other age groups. This is simply not the case – in fact, their simple employment rates deteriorated more than any other age-group.
In this figure, I compare changes in the employment rates and the rate of employer-sponsored health insurance for various age groups between 2009 and 2010. As you can see, the job-market didn’t do the younger group any favors between 2009 and 2010. Their employment rate actually fell further than any other age group. On the flip side, their rate of employer-sponsored health insurance actually rose.
To me, this is strong evidence in support of the argument that health reform is beginning to work.
Click the figure to enlarge