Young adults typically have no health insurance, and therefore often put off seeking the care they need during one of the most transitional periods of their lives.

Health insurance status is a primary indicator of access to medical care in the United States – and in the United States, lack of health insurance coverage has been highest among younger adults.

In 2008, young adults in the United States aged 20-29 years were almost twice as likely (31 percent) as adults aged 30-64 years (17 percent) to lack health insurance coverage. As young adults transition into the workforce, they may be dropped from public health coverage at age 19, or from their parents’ policies upon high school or college graduation. The low wages and temporary jobs typically available to young adults upon graduation often come with limited or no health benefits.

Young adulthood is a high-risk period for unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, substance abuse, and injuries. Pregnancy rates are highest among women aged 20-29 years, which is directly related to the need for health care services. Disruption of health insurance coverage can introduce barriers to health care and leave young adults vulnerable to high out-of-pocket expenses in the event of a serious illness or injury.

A recent National Center for Health Statistics report found that:

  • Almost 13 million young adults did not have health insurance coverage in 2008 (30 percent).
  • Among people aged 20-29 years, men were 36 percent more likely than women to be uninsured (35 percent compared with 26 percent). Equal percentages of young adult men and women had private health insurance coverage. However, young women were more than twice as likely as young men to have Medicaid coverage.
  • Overall, 70 percent of young adults aged 20-29 years had a regular source of medical care. Those without insurance were less likely to have a regular source of medical care (44 percent) than were those with private insurance (80 percent) or Medicaid (84 percent). Young women aged 20-29 years were more likely to have a regular source of medical care than young men. Young women with private coverage (91 percent) were more likely than young men with private coverage (70 percent) to have a regular source of medical care. Among uninsured young adults, women (50 percent) were more likely than men (39 percent) to have a regular source of medical care.
  • Almost three-quarters of young adults visited a doctor in the past year – 87 percent of women and 60 percent of men. Those aged 20-29 years who didn’t have insurance were less likely to have a doctor visit in the past year (54 percent) than those with private insurance (81 percent) or Medicaid (84 percent). Approximately nine out of 10 young women aged 20-29 years who had private insurance also had a doctor visit in the past year, compared with seven out of 10 young men. Among young adults with Medicaid coverage, more young women (94 percent) had a doctor visit in the past year compared with young men (59 percent). Uninsured young women were 75 percent more likely than uninsured young men to have had a doctor visit in the past year.
  • Almost one in 10 young adults aged 20-29 years had two or more emergency room visits in the past 12 months. Young women were twice as likely to have had two or more emergency room visits in the past 12 months (12 percent) as young men (6 percent). Among young adults with Medicaid, women (27 percent) were three times as likely as men (9 percent) to have had two or more emergency room visits in the past 12 months.
  • Overall, in the past 12 months, 10 percent of young adults needed medical care but did not get it. Those without insurance were four times as likely (21 percent) as those with private insurance (5 percent) and two times as likely as those with Medicaid (9 percent) to have unmet medical need. Uninsured young women were more likely to have unmet medical need (24 percent) than uninsured young men (19 percent).

So what does all this mean for you? With the impending changes to the minimum coverage age under the PPACA, it’s possible that many more of these young adults will get covered. But it’s also likely that many of them will still be seeking assistance. Show them these statistics. Suggest a plan that’s right for them. Even though they may not trust you at first, if you approach them with the right attitude, this new group of prospects might warm up to you in the end.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics