An estimated 3.1 million young Americans who would have lacked health coverage gained access to it thanks to an Obamacare provision that allows adults up to age 26 to remain on their parents’ health insurance. A newstudy published in the New England Journal of Medicine concludes that shift saved young people from paying — and hospitals from absorbing — $147 million in high medical bills for treating catastrophic conditions such as broken bones, poisonings, and traumatic brain injuries in 2011 alone.
Without the health law’s protections, uninsured young Americans would have been forced to foot the bill for these urgent care visits. “Some of those costs would have been born by individuals,” said Andrew Mulcahy, one of the study’s authors. “Some of those costs would have been ultimately been born by hospitals as uncompensated care.”
If those young people had been forced to rely on catastrophic emergency room care, they could have been at risk for financial ruin. The average ER trip costs 40 percent more than what most Americans spend on monthly rent, with the price of serious injury treatments ranging anywhere from $1,000 to $3,600 depending on the hospital. Just one serious medical conditioncan bankrupt Americans.
But the other option — forgoing care altogether — could be even worse, since that doesn’t help people get any better. Untreated medical issues can lead to lost productivity and could end up getting young adults fired from their jobs, or prevent them from finding one that offers health coverage. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that serious injuries contribute to more than $465 billion in medical spending and lost productivity every year.
Obamacare has eliminated those scenarios for millions of young Americans by giving them access to health coverage. Marian Mulkey, an official with the non-partisan California HealthCare Foundation, heralded the study’s findings as a solid victory for consumers. “That’s exactly what the law intended,” said Mulkey.