Yesterday President Obama claimed that “more than 3 million young adults… have gained insurance under this law by staying on their family’s plan.”
Indeed, the number of young people who can now stay on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26—the so-called “slacker mandate”—is one of the most oft-repeated ObamaCare statistics. The Los Angeles Times used it in a recent article to claim that because of ObamaCare “at least 9.5 million previously uninsured people have gained coverage.” That included not only the 3.1 million young adults who are covered by their parents’ plans but also about 2 million on the exchanges and 4.5 million on Medicaid.
The exchange and Medicaid numbers are highly problematic and have been challenged elsewhere. Yet the 3.1 million young adults figure seems nearly infallible. For example, when disputing the Medicaid numbers back in January, Ezra Klein claimed, “The 3.1 million young adults who got coverage through the new insurance regulations is a pretty reliable figure.”
Well, no, it’s not.
The 3.1 million figure comes from a June 2012 report from the Department of Health and Human Services. The slacker mandate went into effect in late September 2010. Using data from the Center for Disease Control’s National Health Interview Survey, HHS estimated that the number of 19-25-year-olds with insurance was about 64.4 percent in the third quarter of 2010 and was 74.8 percent in the last quarter of 2011. HHS took that increase of 10.4 percent and multiplied it with the number of 19-25-year-olds in the U.S. in 2011—about 29.7 million according to the Census Bureau—which yielded 3.1 million. (Note: The 29.7 million figure actually refers to the number of 18-24-year-olds in the U.S. in 2010. HHS apparently assumed there was that same number of 19-25-year-olds in the U.S. one year later, in 2011.)