Young Adults Have Limited Access to Health Insurance
Accessible and affordable health care means a more reliable workforce. However, health care is out of reach for many young people, and state policymakers have made the problem worse by cutting investments in health coverage.
As detailed in our latest policy brief, 18 - to 34-year-olds in Washington state are more likely than any other age group to lack health insurance. As the figure below shows, in 2010, nearly half of the uninsured in the state – 47 percent – were between the ages of 18-34.
For the past 25 years, the state’s Basic Health Program (BHP) has provided affordable health coverage to lower-income working adults who typically do not qualify for other health insurance. But after years of budget cuts, enrollment has plunged to 30,000, from an enrollment peak of 130,000 in 2000. Over half of adults who have lost coverage are 39 and younger. More than 170,000 people are on a waiting list.
The benefits to health insurance are substantial and hold value for the entire state economy. Productivity and annual earnings increase dramatically with better health, boosting annual wages by 10 to 30 percent.
Young adults are almost twice as likely to be uninsured compared to someone between the ages of 35 and 64. Full expansion of Medicaid to cover individuals up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level – as made possible by the federal Affordable Care Act - would help remedy that. Over 330,000 Washingtonians, including a large number of young adults, will be newly eligible for Medicaid.
With the federal government picking up most of the cost (100 percent for the first three years and 90 percent after that) expansion of Medicaid is an investment with significant payoff - greater economic security for thousands of Washington families - at a reduced cost to the state.
Learn more about how young adults have fared through the Great Recession and recent budget cuts by reading our new policy brief.