The Corner

No, Obamacare’s ‘Slacker Mandate’ Hasn’t Insured 3 Million Young Adults

One of the big Democratic talking points has been that Obamacare’s ”slacker mandate” — its requirement that private insurers offering family-based coverage allow “adult children” to stay on their parents’ plans until they’re 26—has increased coverage by 3 million people.

It turns out that number is basically fraudulent, and comes from a two-page press release put out by an Obama-administration analyst. It involves giving Obamacare credit for (1) young adults on Medicaid and other government programs, for whom the under-26 mandate doesn’t apply; and (2) people who gained coverage due to the quasi-recovery from the Great Recession. As you can see in the below chart, coverage for young adults dipped in 2009 and 2010 during the recession, but then recovered. In fact, the proportion of young adults with private health coverage in 2008—60.5 percent—is exactly the same as in 2012.

I won’t bore you with the deep dive into these numbers I published over at Forbes, but my best estimate as to the true number of people who were newly covered due to the “slacker mandate” is at most 900,000. And it’s important to note that the slacker mandate isn’t free. It involves hiking premiums on everyone else with family-based coverage who doesn’t have “adult children.” That’s an effective tax increase of $160 to $480 a year on these other families.

It’s high time that responsible media outlets stop using the 3 million number.

Avik Roy is the President of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity (FREOPP.org), a non-partisan, non-profit think tank.

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