NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Uninsured Young Adults Gambling With Health

November 11, 2003

In the United States the number of people between the ages of 18 and 34 without health coverage has grown to 17.9 million people, accounting for 41 percent of the country's uninsured. Amid a soft job market and increasing insurance costs, experts fear that more and more people in this age bracket will forgo medical care.

  • Most young adults are dropped by their parents' insurance at 19, or 22 if they go to college.
  • Last year, young adults made up 50 percent of all new uninsured cases.
  • And studies indicate half of high school graduates who don't go on to college and two-of-five college graduates will spend time without insurance during their first year after graduation.
  • Young adults have the highest number of annual visits to emergency rooms and account for one-third of new HIV diagnoses; there are also 3.5 million pregnancies among women in their 20s every year.
  • The cost of medical treatment can be crippling; according to Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, a case of appendicitis can cost almost $9,000 while the average broken arm costs $1,450.

When it comes to purchasing insurance, the biggest obstacle is cost. The price of coverage is rising faster than income, making it difficult for young people to get access to insurance. But still, the safest move for young adults -- second to working for a firm with benefits -- is to purchase insurance in the non-group market.

Source: Emily Ramshaw, "Uninsured young adults take high-stakes gamble: Illnesses, accidents show risks of eschewing steep cost of coverage," Dallas Morning News, November 8, 2003.


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