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November 29, 2013

5 myths about health care's 'young invincibles'

Coined by the health insurance industry, the term "young invincibles" has come to describe 18- to 34-year-olds who go without coverage because they expect to remain healthy. But young invincibles are crucial to making the Affordable Care Act work: The White House is counting on them to buy coverage under the new law, helping to spread the risk and hold down premiums for everybody. Let's debunk a few myths about who these uninsured young people are and what they want from the health-care system.

1. Young adults are uninformed about the health-care law.

Young adults tend to be about as aware of the health-care law as the rest of the population. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll in August found that 33 percent of adults had heard nothing about their state health insurance exchanges. That figure was 43 percent among 18- to 25-year-olds and 41 percent among 26- to 35-year-olds. Separate polling from the Pew Research Center found that young adults were more aware than any other demographic that the health-care law offers subsidies for low-income Americans to purchase insurance. However, they were less aware of the requirement to buy coverage.

Young Americans are especially aware of the provisions that affect their own coverage options, most prominently the option to stay on their parents' insurance plans until age 26. A Commonwealth Fund poll in March found that 62 percent of young adults knew of that program.

2. They don't want health insurance.

Young adults do have the highest uninsured rate of any demographic, with about 27 percent of people between 19 and 34 lacking insurance coverage, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. But health-care experts say this doesn't necessarily mean that they don't want insurance, but rather that they are less likely to be offered coverage through their employers. That's because more young people work part-time or hourly-wage jobs that do not offer health benefits. When offered coverage by their employers, about 80 percent of young adults sign up — about the same rate as older workers.

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