Young adult enrollment hits roadblocks

Former foster children and college students aren't enrolling in coverage made possible through the Affordable Care Act. News reports suggest unfamiliarity with one of the law's provisions and affordability concerns are to blame.

Under the ACA, about 180,000 youths who aged out of foster care nationally since 2007 may qualify for Medicaid coverage until their 26th birthday, regardless of income, where they live or whether their home state expands Medicaid, Kaiser Health News and The Los Angeles Daily News reported. The only requirements include prior Medicaid coverage and foster care placement at age 18.

While the provision is meant to level the playing field between former foster children and other young people covered as dependents on their parents' plans until age 26, enrollment barriers still exist, KHN noted.

Few people know about the ACA's foster children provision. Plus, there's no universal database of foster kids, which makes it hard to document someone's time in the child protection system, the article noted. Moreover, states aren't required to provide Medicaid coverage to young people who aged out of foster care outside their borders.

Highlighting other issues affecting enrollment within the young adult market segment, 30 percent of recently-polled California college students report being uninsured for financial reasons as opposed to delusions of invincibility, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Specifically, 79 percent of 836 survey respondents said they didn't have health insurance because they couldn't afford it. Many would rather pay a penalty for being uninsured, as FierceHealthPayer previously reported. The survey found only 9 percent of students didn't need or want coverage, the LA Times reported. The survey follows a new report from American Action Forum, which suggests the individual mandate penalty may never adequately incentivize young adults to sign up for plans sold on health insurance exchanges.

Enrollment of young people remains critical for healthcare reform success. Accordingly, First Lady Michelle Obama encouraged young adults to enroll in health plans in a recent interview, saying their monthly premiums could be cheaper than a cell phone bill, the LA Times noted.

For more:
- see the KHN and LA Daily News article
- here's the LA Times article