Young Adults’ Health Care Utilization and Expenditures Prior to the Affordable Care Act

This 2014 original article by researchers in the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine examines young adults’ health care utilization and expenditures prior to the Affordable Care Act.

Using data from the 2009 Medical Expenditures Survey, Lau et al found that young adults had significantly lower rates of overall healthcare utilization that other age groups, the lowest rate of office-based utilization, and higher rates of emergency room visits compared with adolescents.

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Uninsured young adults had high out-of-pocket expenses. Compared with the young adults with private insurance, the uninsured spent less than half on health care but essentially the same out-of-pocket expenses. Among young adults, we identified significant disparities in utilization and expenditures based on the presence/absence of a usual source of care, race/ethnicity, home language, and sex.

This study expands our understanding of young adults’ health care utilization patterns and associated expenditures. It highlights the importance of addressing noninsurance factors to fully realize the potential of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) while young adults are gaining insurance coverage. The authors conclude that further effort is needed to address noninsurance barriers and ensure equal access to health services.

The article is available here.