Study: Insurers incurred $147M in ER costs for young adults

The reform law's young adult provision shifted $147 million in emergency room-related costs for young adults to insurers in only one year, a new study shows.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, estimated more than 22,000 emergency room visits in 2011 involved newly insured young adults. As a result, the provision allowing young adults to stay on their parents' health plans until they're 26 years old increased health insurance rates about 3 percent for young adults seeking emergency treatment.

"The change allowing young people to remain on their parents' medical insurance is protecting young adults and their families from the significant financial risk posed by emergency medical care," Andrew Mulcahy, the study's lead author and health policy researcher at RAND, said Wednesday in a statement. "Hospitals are benefiting, too, because they are treating fewer uninsured young people for emergency ailments."

What's more, since the study only examined the most serious emergency cases, he added, "we probably underestimate the full financial benefits that the new rules have provided to young adults who need urgent medical care."

Mulcahy clarified that the provision, which has led to more than 3 million young adults gaining health coverage, didn't increase hospital visits among this group. It merely shifted the costs of paying for these visits to insurers. "The provision didn't lead to more people going to the ER," he told Health Day. "They would have gone without this provision, but they would have been uninsured."

To learn more:
- here's the study and statement
- read the Health Day article