Young people are helped by the Affordable Care Act

June 22, 2014 

Even some critics of the Affordable Care Act, who helped to dub it “Obamacare” and attacked it as government interference, unwieldy, inefficient and just plain wrong were given pause by one provision. That was the one that allowed parents to keep adult children on their insurance until the age of 26.

It was no small benefit, as many young people, particularly in the aftermath of the Great Recession, had trouble finding work and specifically work that carried with it access to health insurance. That left them not just uncovered in the case of catastrophe such as an automobile accident, but for day-to-day preventive care that helps people avoid more serious illnesses.

So yes, somewhat reluctantly, President Obama’s critics had to admit that the idea of giving that insurance option to parents was a good one. Even some Republicans in Congress who aimed to defund if not destroy Obamacare legislatively promised that once they’d done away with it, they would retain that insurance provision.

Now, on several fronts, some aspects of the Affordable Care Act are getting good reviews.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association says that among the millions of young adults who have access to insurance and thus to health care thanks to the ACA, more are reporting they’re in excellent health. And, they’re paying less for this better care.

One of the authors of the study, Dr. Kao-Ping Chua of Boston’s Children’s Hospital, said “The health insurance that people are gaining seems to be doing what it is supposed to do.” And, he said, it “makes a difference for many types of people, including relatively healthy young adults.”

This isn’t to say that young people who had coverage through their parents and might not have had it otherwise necessarily went to the doctor more often. But, Chua theorized that maybe the study’s findings reflected that younger folks felt better about their health because they felt more secure knowing they were covered.

President Obama never sold health care reform as a revolution. He did believe, all through a remarkably contentious debate, that greater access to health care would ultimately mean a healthier country, and one in which access to health care wasn’t determined by one’s ability to afford good insurance.

Then, of course, came the firestorm last year when the “rollout” of the government’s website and the inconsistency of some health care exchanges through which people could obtain insurance contributed to a stall in the implementation of Obamacare. Critics pounced, citing technical problems as clear evidence that the president’s health care agenda was all wrong and should be abandoned.

Fortunately, it was not, and after that rocky start things smoothed out fairly quickly, with eight million people signed on, and then 12 million. It appears as well that, as the naysayers feared, once people began to obtain health care coverage, they would like it.

It’s true some people have seen premium increases. But as more younger and healthier people sign on, premiums should be lower for all.

The significance of this early study on one aspect of the Affordable Care Act is that it shows a good idea worked. That will build public confidence as the health insurance exchanges move forward and millions more Americans sign on. That will not silence critics, but it will force those who want to simply “repeal Obamacare” to make a better case than they have thus far.

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