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1M young adults add health coverage

WASHINGTON -- At least one part of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul has proven popular. While the economy sputters, the number of young adults covered by health insurance grew by about a million as families flocked to take advantage of a new benefit in the law.

Two surveys released yesterday -- one by the government, another by Gallup -- found significantly fewer young adults going without coverage, even as the overall number of uninsured remained high.

The government's National Center for Health Statistics found that the number of the uninsured ages 19-25 dropped from 10 million last year to 9.1 million in the first three months of this year, a sharp decline over such a brief period.

New data from a continuing Gallup survey found that the share of adults 18-25 without coverage dropped from 28 percent last fall to 24.2 percent by this summer.

The health care law allows young adults to remain on their parents' health plans until they turn 26. Previously, families faced a hodgepodge of policies. Some plans covered only adult children while they were full-time students. Others applied an age cutoff.

Elizabeth Wilson, an aspiring opera singer who lives near Indianapolis, said her mother's plan dropped her in the midst of a medical crisis because she had turned 23. At the time, Wilson was in the hospital under treatment for an inflammation of the pancreas. Because of the overhaul, she has been able to get back on the policy.

"It means I don't have to spend every penny I make to get health care," said Wilson, now 24. "I can use some of it to further my studies -- or buy food."

The two surveys were welcome news for an administration trying to fight off attempts to repeal the law, which some GOP lawmakers and candidates call "Obama-care," or to overturn it in court.