Young adults struggle finding health care coverage

Young adults represent the largest group of uninsured people while they also increasingly report mental health issues in college. The San Jose Mercury News reports: "Young adults aged 19 to 29 are less well-protected by health insurance than any other age group in America: Almost one in three have no insurance — and many more are underinsured. And as the country grapples over how to provide coverage to Americans, figuring out how to cover young adults — from all income levels — has become a tricky and significant subtext in the reform debate." 

Young adults who have graduated from college and are employed do not necessarily have health insurance either since many first jobs don't offer affordable health plans. "Young adults comprise about 18 percent of the adult population but make up 28 percent of the overall uninsured adult population, according to the Urban Institute. The gap is so critical and so costly that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week announced a new provision proposed for the health insurance reform bill: It would allow young people to remain covered under their parents' insurance plan until their 27th birthday. In California, parents can cover their children until age 19 — and in some instances until age 23 if they are full-time college students. At least 20 other states have increased the age of covering dependents into the mid-20s; New Jersey allows coverage up to age 30" (Goldston, 10/18).

Meanwhile, NPR reports that colleges are seeing a rise in the number of students who seek counseling help for mental health issues. Daniel Eisenberg, director of the University of Michigan's Healthy Minds Study, notes that over 90 percent of counseling services are reporting that "they're seeing an increase in the number and severity of students with mental health problems." As an example, he says, "In 2007, around 15 percent of students reported having been diagnosed with depression at some point in their lives; that's up from 10 percent in 2000."

"Eisenberg and other experts say they haven't yet teased out all the reasons behind the surge of mental health issues on campus, but think it doubtful that today's teenagers are more psychologically disturbed than past generations. Other explanations seem more likely. Better screening and earlier diagnosis of mental illness in high school and even before may be one factor, Eisenberg says. ... Researchers suspect the increased severity of mental illness that counselors are seeing may be partly the consequence of a good thing: better treatment." 

NPR also reports on the experience of Stanford University senior Amanda Gelender, who struggled with depression and co-founded the student theater group called Stanford Theatre Activist Mobilization Project (STAMP). Last winter, STAMP did a project and "solicited anonymous true-life letters from classmates living with depression, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder and other mental health problems" (Franklin, 10/19).

In a separate piece, NPR reports on one Stanford student who wrote a letter to STAMP about her experience living with clinical anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder while spending a semester in Kenya (10/19).


Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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