Insurance Coverage and Health Outcomes in Young Adults With Mental Illness Following the Affordable Care Act Dependent Coverage Expansion

Objective: As a provision of the Affordable Care Act, young adults were able to remain on their parents’ health insurance plans until age 26. We examined the impact of the 2010 dependent coverage expansion on insurance coverage and health outcomes among young adults with mental illness.

Methods: Data are from the 2008–2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an annual population-based survey of noninstitutionalized US individuals aged 12 and older. We used a difference-in-differences approach to compare young adults with mental illness subject to the provision (aged 19–25 years, n = 19,051) with an older comparison group (aged 26–34 years, n = 7,958) before (2008–2009) and after (2011–2013) the dependent coverage expansion in their insurance coverage, use of health services, and self-reported health.

Results: In adjusted analyses, following the dependent coverage expansion, private insurance coverage increased by 11.7 percentage points (95% CI, 8.4–15.1, P < .001) and uninsurance decreased by 8.9 percentage points (95% CI, 12.1 to 5.7, P < .001) among 19- to 25-year-olds with mental illness, relative to 26- to 34-year-olds. The provision was associated with a modest increase in young adults with mental illness who received outpatient mental health treatment at least monthly on average (+2.0% [95% CI, 0.1% to 4.0%, P = .04]) and a modest decrease in those reporting their overall health as fair or poor (2.3% [95% CI, 4.6% to −0.0%, P = .05]). Unmet mental health needs due to cost decreased significantly among those with moderate-to-serious mental illness (12.3% [95% CI, 22.7% to 2.0%, P = .02]), but did not change among those with mild illness.

Conclusions: The 2010 dependent coverage expansion was associated with an increase in insurance coverage, several indicators of mental health treatment, and improved self-reported health among young adults with mental illness.

J Clin Psychiatry 2017;78(7):e821–e827

https://doi.org/10.4088/JCP.16m11357