Since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010, I have been able to live with the comfort of knowing I was protected — I would be able to stay on my parents’ health insurance plan until I turn 26 as part of the dependent child coverage provision.
The ACA, also known as “Obamacare,” is not universal coverage, but it subsidizes the cost of insurance for those who cannot afford it. It also mandates that people buy insurance, or else pay a fine. The law has had its fair share of controversy, as conservatives claim coercing Americans to buy insurance is unjust.
But one of the most popular aspects of the ACA, regardless of party affiliation, is the dependent child coverage provision, which allows young adults like myself to stay on their parents’ plans until they’re 26 years old. According to a December poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, 85 percent of Americans, including 82 percent of Republicans, have a favorable opinion of this mandate.
It has been a comfort knowing that despite any potential financial crises I might experience as a student, or as a recent graduate, I wouldn’t have to worry about having health insurance.
But with the swearing-in of a new president and some new members of Congress insistent on repealing the ACA, it feels like that comfort isn’t so secure — despite the fact that recent polls have shown the ACA has higher approval ratings than ever.
The dependent child coverage provision both eases the burden on people during a financially stressful period of their lives, and makes for a healthier, more insured population. This is a law that specifically helps college-aged adults, and Republican and Democratic legislators alike should make it a priority to preserve this provision, whether it remains in the ACA or a different, future health care plan.
“It was offered because of the changing nature of the workforce, and the probability that a 22- or 23-year-old person graduating from college might not be presented with a full-time job that had benefits,” said professor Robin Kolodny, the political science department chair.
Jed Cainglet, a freshman computer science major, is currently insured through his parents, and he said he supports the dependent child coverage provision.
“It’s extremely helpful for students who, after graduation, are still looking for a job,” Cainglet said. “It gives us time to prepare to get our own insurance.”
This is what makes the provision so valuable: people who formerly fell through the cracks, too old for their parents’ plan but too young to buy their own, can now more easily be insured.
Megan Lehman, a freshman biology major, is currently insured through her parents.
“Right now, I work to pay for school,” she said. “I’m planning on going to more school after this. I don’t think I would be able to afford [health insurance].”
In 2008, when the ACA was being drafted, adults ages 18 to 25 had the highest uninsured rate of any age group in the country at 27.6 percent. By 2016, the rate had fallen to 14.8 percent.
This sizable dent in the uninsured population should be proof enough that this provision is worth keeping. But despite the added benefits for young people, many Republicans have been insistent on repealing and replacing the ACA, citing rising premiums and a lack of competition between insurance providers.
This potentially puts those covered by the dependent child coverage provision at risk, as the future of the ACA is called into question. It’s not clear what a new health care plan would mean for young adults or if there would be a gap in coverage as a new plan is instituted.
Health insurance can be expensive and confusing — especially for financially insecure young adults. If the ACA is repealed, and young people need to find a different way to be insured, many will likely forgo insurance altogether.
“The annual screening for things like your cholesterol and blood pressure will be lost,” Kolodny said. “If someone was going to develop a problem that was going to turn into something more significant, you’ve given up the opportunity to catch it in a visit.”
The provision doesn’t exclusively help a largely uninsured population receive health care. Catherine Maclean, an economics professor, said it also has positive effects on the health care market.
“The dependent coverage mandate brings young people into the market,” Maclean said. “Those people are on average healthier, have lower health care expenditures, and are less likely to get sick.”
The health insurance market is complex and unpredictable. But on all counts, the dependent child coverage provision is valuable to citizens and insurers alike.
Even if the future of the ACA comes into question by Republican lawmakers, the dependent child coverage provision should remain safeguarded for the sake of young people.
Luke Mottola can be reached at email@example.com.