WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Fewer young adults in the U.S. reported lacking health insurance coverage in each of the three quarters since the new healthcare law in September 2010 began allowing young adults to stay on their parents' plans up to age 26. About one in four (24.2%) 18- to 25-year-olds reported being uninsured in the second quarter of this year, down from 28% in the third quarter of 2010, and nearly the lowest Gallup has measured at any point since it began tracking health insurance coverage rates in 2008.
The declining number of uninsured young adults is slowly reversing the trend that Gallup and Healthways documented starting in the fall of 2008. At that time, the uninsured rate for this age group -- and all age groups -- began to increase as the economy was collapsing and unemployment rising.
The percentage of uninsured 26- to 64-year-olds, however, continues to increase, rising to a high of 19.9% in the second quarter of this year. Among all Americans, 17.4% reported being uninsured in the second quarter of the year.
The increase in the percentage of all Americans who were uninsured in the second quarter of 2011 coincides with Gallup's decision to include more cell phone-only respondents in the U.S. beginning April 1. Thus, some of the increase in the uninsured could reflect the greater representation of cell phone-only respondents -- who tend to be younger -- in Gallup samples. Gallup does not expect the change in survey methods to affect the estimates of insurance rates among specific age groups.
The provision of the Affordable Care Act that allows children up to the age of 26 to remain on their parents' plans appears to be having an immediate effect on the number of Americans who report they have health insurance. Since it went into effect in September 2010, the percentage of 18- to 25-year-olds who report being uninsured has significantly declined by four percentage points.
Gallup and Healthways track adults' health insurance coverage daily in the U.S. as part of the Well-Being Index. The uninsured rate initially increased in the fourth quarter of 2008, amid the financial crisis, and has remained elevated since. Whether the overall percentage of all Americans who lack healthcare coverage declines will depend not just on uninsured rates for 18- to 25-year-olds, but also on what happens to 26- to 64-year-olds over the next several years.