WASHINGTON | Fri., June 8, 2012 12:01am EDT (Reuters) — Health care reform enabled an estimated 6.6 million young adults to join their parents' health insurance plans last year, according to a Commonwealth Fund report, though problems with medical bills and debt remain an issue.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act allows young adults — who previously had the nation's highest uninsured rate — to stay on their parents' private insurance plans through age 26. The Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit organization that analyzes health care issues, polled 1,863 adults between the ages of 19 to 25 and found 47% of them joined or remained on their parents' plans between November 2010 and November 2011. This would translate into about 13.7 million young adults in the broader population.

Of those, 6.6 million likely would not have been eligible to be on their parents' plans before PPACA’s passage, as they were not enrolled in college full-time or already had graduated. Most insurance plans already allow full-time college students to stay on their parents' plans.

The results compare to a U.S. government survey that last year found about 21.6 million young adults had private health insurance — either through their parents, their jobs or other means — which was 2.5 million higher than before the law was passed.

But the Commonwealth Fund also found 36% of young adults between the ages of 19 and 29 — a slightly bigger group — had trouble paying medical bills or said they were paying off medical debt. Among those without insurance, this group rose to 51%.

Sara Collins, one of the study's authors and vice president at the Commonwealth Fund, said some young people need maternity coverage, which is often expensive but may not be provided by insurance plans.

Young adults also have the highest rate of injury-related visits to the emergency room — even above children and the elderly — and may have other health conditions such as HIV or the human papillomavirus.

(Reporting by Anna Yukhananov; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

© 2011 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.

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