April 13, 2014

Did more than 3 million young adults get health coverage from parents' plans?

There’s no way to get an exact figure, but President Obama’s point that the federal health car law’s mandate has increased coverage is valid.

President Barack Obama claimed success for the Affordable Care Act after 7 million people had enrolled in coverage on the marketplaces by the March 31 deadline.

“Despite several lost weeks out of the gate because of problems with the website, 7.1 million Americans have now signed up for private insurance plans through these marketplaces,” he said in an April 1 address from the Rose Garden. “7.1 million, that’s on top of the more than 3 million young adults who have gained insurance under this law by staying on their family’s plan.”

Since Sept. 23, 2010, young adults have been able to stay on their families’ private insurance plans until they turn 26. PolitiFact wanted to find out whether 3 million people, a number some have disputed, have really benefited from that change.

The White House pointed us to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services June 2012 report for the source of Obama’s number.

Between September 2010 and December 2011, the percentage of 19- to 25-year-olds on their families’ insurance increased from 64.4 percent to 74.8 percent, according to the National Health Interview Survey. HHS then took that increase of 10.4 percentage points and multiplied it by the number of people in that age group, which, according to Census data, was 29.7 million in 2010, to arrive at almost 3.1 million newly insured people.

Their estimate is two years old and has not been updated, though they say they it will be going forward.

The administration’s calculation is not the only method you could use to evaluate the impact of the law’s increased coverage for young adults. Forbes magazine opinion editor Avik Roy, a former Mitt Romney advisor and Obamacare critic, took down the 3.1 million figure and estimated that the true number is more like 930,000.

Factors that affect the estimate include the starting point for counting uninsured young adults, and whether that is pre-recession; the data set used for counting uninsured young adults; and the year the estimate was last updated.

Others have questioned Obama’s estimate as well. Our fact-checking colleague Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post published his own estimate of 2.2 million people, after using updated National Health Interview Surveys and also averaging 2010 figures instead of cherry-picking the third quarter, the year’s low point for uninsured young adults.

Timothy Jost, a Washington and Lee University healthcare law professor who supports the law, said more than 3 million might be a high estimate, but that Roy’s is too low. He acknowledged that there are a number of ways to arrive at the estimate, but his best guess was 2.5 million.

Everyone agreed that the number of young adults covered increased as a result of the law — but there’s no telling by exactly how much.

Our ruling

Obama said more than 3 million adults aged 19 to 25 got health coverage as a result of an Affordable Care Act mandate that allows those individuals to remain on their families’ private plans.

There is no way to get an exact figure, and estimates range from less than 1 million to 3.1 million. Obama’s estimate may be quite high, but his point that the law’s mandate has increased coverage in that age range is correct.

We rate his claim Half True.

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