WASHINGTON -- Young adults trying to get traction in a tough economy are getting a welcome assist: the new federal health care law has markedly improved their access to health insurance.
The number of Americans ages 19-25 lacking health insurance has shrunk by 2.5 million since the health care overhaul took effect, the Obama administration announced in an analysis released yesterday.
That drop is 2 1/2 times as large as the decline indicated by previous government and private estimates from earlier this year, which showed about 1 million had gained coverage.
The improvement comes even as the uninsured rate stayed basically stuck for those a little older, ages 26-35.
Under the health care overhaul, adult children can stay on a parent's plan until they turn 26, a provision that has proven popular in an otherwise divisive law.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the numbers show the law is making a big difference for families with adult children.
"Many of them gained coverage earlier this spring, meaning the law was there for young people as they graduated from college or high school and began their careers," she said.
Administration officials said there are a couple of reasons for the better-than-expected result. First, there are more data available now than earlier this year.
Second, analysts are slicing the numbers more precisely than the government usually does.
The health care law's main push to cover the uninsured doesn't come until 2014. But the young adults' provision took effect last fall, and most workplace health plans started carrying it out Jan. 1. Since then, families have flocked to sign up adult children making the transition to work in a challenging environment.
The overall fate of Obama's law remains uncertain, with the Supreme Court scheduled to hear a constitutional challenge next year, and Republican presidential candidates vowing to repeal it.
But this provision seems to have gotten a seal of approval from consumers.