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Young adults allowed to stay on parents’ health plan report being in better health

Young adults who were able to stay on or join their parents’ health insurance plans after the 2010 federal health law was implemented report that they’re in better physical and mental health compared to those in a control group who didn’t benefit from that aspect of the law, according to a new study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health surveyed more than 26,000 young adults ages 19 to 25 both before and after the health care law was implemented and found that 6 percent more reported being in excellent physical health and 4 percent more in excellent mental health in 2011 compared to a decade earlier. Those in the control group, who were ages 26 to 34, reported no significant change in their health.

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They also found, not surprisingly, that out of pocket health expenses decreased significantly compared to the control group, which enjoyed no such decrease.

The researchers also found that compared with the control group, implementation of the dependent coverage provision was associated with a decrease of 3.7 percentage points in out-of-pocket expenditures among adults ages 19 to 25 years with any expenditures. Annual out-of-pocket expenditures declined by approximately 18 percent in the 19- to 25-year-old group, relative to adults aged 26 to 34.

“Knowing that you have health insurance can help people feel more secure — which can certainly improve their mental health,” said study leader Dr. Kao-Ping Chua, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital. “The reason why it would improve their physical health is less clear, but it may be due to the fact that they’re receiving more primary health care services.”

Deborah Kotz can be reached at dkotz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @debkotz2.
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