Accessing Health Insurance

Young adults who are covered by their parent’s health insurance plan can remain on the plan until the age of 26 — that’s because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a groundbreaking 2010 law that made the biggest changes to American health care in decades. This change helped many young adults stay covered for longer. Young adults who don’t have the option of a parent’s plan may qualify for health insurance in other ways. They may qualify through their job or through Medicaid, depending on their income and where they live. They can also purchase their own health plan through the individual marketplace.*

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Ever Feel that Your Health Insurance Company Treats Your Mental Health Needs Differently?

Health insurance companies still discriminate against mental health.

Health Coverage: An Important Step to Mental Health Care

Several laws regulate how health insurance covers mental health services. Insurance companies are required to treat mental health services the same as physical health services.** The ACA also requires all comprehensive health plans to cover mental health as an essential health benefit, meaning most health insurance plans must cover mental health services.

So, Why Doesn’t Insurance Always Cover Mental Health Care?

Short-term plans that are often marketed to young adults aren’t required to cover mental health care. This could include health plans offered through colleges and universities. That’s why it is important to make sure a plan is “comprehensive” — it covers all 10 essential health benefits — before enrolling. However, despite all this, holes remain.

Who’s Left Out? And What Should They Do?

In some states young adults with low incomes are left out of coverage due their state’s decision not to expand Medicaid. In most states, young adults who are undocumented do not have access to any options at all. Depending on your state, new immigrants with low incomes may not be able to access Medicaid as an option. For those with no or limited access to coverage, there are still ways to find care – community health centers often offer treatment regardless of insurance status, and people can get help at local emergency departments, which may provide financial assistance to help with medical bills. Young adults with low incomes in some states may qualify for emergency Medicaid, regardless of immigration status, which will help cover the cost of emergency services.

*A health insurance exchange, also called marketplace, is where you can buy a health insurance plan for individuals and families. Accessed through a website run by the federal or state government, many plans are searchable and can be filtered by coverage needed, costs, and more.
**Also known as “mental health parity.”

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Key Stats

16% of young adults (ages 19-34) are uninsured compared to 9% of the general population. [source]

63% of youth with major depression do not receive any mental health treatment. [source]

Black and Latinx young adults are uninsured at higher rates than White young adults. [source: Community Population Survey. Annual Social and Economic Supplement, 2019]

Due to insurance barriers, people are five times more likely to pay out-of-pocket for mental health services compared to physical health services. [source]

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A young person with light skin and short blond hair sits in an office, in conversation with a smiling counselor with brown skin and curly brown hair.
A young person with light skin and short blond hair sits in an office, in conversation with a smiling counselor with brown skin and curly brown hair.

Equitable Mental Health Care

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