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By Julie Kliegman April 7, 2014

Obama says more than 3 million young adults got health coverage from parents' plans

President Barack Obama touted the success of the Affordable Care Act after 7 million people enrolled in coverage on the marketplaces by the March 31 deadline.

"Despite several lost weeks out of the gate because of problems with the website, 7.1 million Americans have now signed up for private insurance plans through these marketplaces," he said in an April 1 address from the Rose Garden. "7.1 million, that’s on top of the more than 3 million young adults who have gained insurance under this law by staying on their family’s plan."

Since Sept. 23, 2010, young adults have been able to stay on their families’ private insurance plans until they turn 26. PolitiFact wanted to see for ourselves if 3 million people, a number we’ve seen disputed, have really benefited from that change.

The White House pointed us to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services June 2012 report for the source of Obama’s number.

Between September 2010 and December 2011, the percentage of 19- to 25-year-olds on their families’ insurance increased from 64.4 percent to 74.8 percent, according to the National Health Interview Survey. HSS then took that increase of 10.4 percentage points and multiplied it by the number of people in that age group, which, according to Census data, was 29.7 million in 2010, to arrive at nearly 3.1 million newly insured people.

Their estimate is two years old and hasn’t been updated, though they say they it will be going forward.

The administration’s calculation isn’t the only method you could use to evaluate the impact of the law’s increased coverage for young adults. Forbes opinion editor Avik Roy, a former Mitt Romney adviser and Obamacare critic, took down the 3.1 million figure and estimated that the true number is more like 930,000.  

Factors that affect the estimate include:

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  • The starting point for counting uninsured young adults, and whether that is pre-recession

  • The data set used for counting uninsured young adults

  • The year the estimate was last updated

Others have questioned Obama’s estimate as well. Our fact-checking colleague Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post published his own estimate of 2.2 million people, after using updated National Health Interview Surveys and also averaging 2010 figures instead of cherrypicking the third quarter, the year’s low point for uninsured young adults.

Timothy Jost, a Washington and Lee health care law professor who supports the law, said more than 3 million might be a high estimate, but Roy’s is too low. Again, he acknowledged that there are a number of different ways to arrive at the estimate, but his best guess is 2.5 million.

Everyone agreed that the number of young adults covered definitely increased as a result of the law. But there’s no telling by exactly how much.

Our ruling

Obama said more than 3 million adults aged 19 to 25 got health coverage as a result of an Affordable Care Act mandate that allows those individuals to remain on their families’ private plans.

There’s no way to get an exact figure, and estimates range anywhere from less than 1 million to 3.1 million. Obama’s estimate may be quite high, but his point that the law’s mandate has increased coverage in that age range is spot on. We rate his claim Half True.

Our Sources, "Sub26ers: Reducing the lower line (update)," April 3, 2014

Department of Health and Human Services, "Number of young adults gaining insurance due to the Affordable Care Act now tops 3 million," June 19, 2012

Email interview with Charles Gaba,, April 7, 2014

Email interview with Colleen Carey, University of Michigan health policy professor, April 4, 2014

Email interview with Fabien Levy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spokesman, April 7, 2014

Email interview with Gail Wilensky, former director of centers for Medicare and Medicaid, April 4, 2014

Email interview with Jessica Santillo, White House spokeswoman, April 4, 2014

Forbes, "Census data: Since 2008, there’s been no net change in the proportion of adults with health coverage," April 3, 2014

Phone interview with Thomas Buchmueller, University of Michigan health economics professor, April 4, 2014

Phone interview with Timothy Jost, Washington and Lee health care law professor, April 4, 2014

Washington Post, "Boehner’s claim that Obamacare has resulted in a ‘net loss’ of people with health insurance," March 17, 2014

Washington Post, "Young adults signing up at higher rates off Obamacare exchanges," March 25, 2014

White House, "Remarks by the president on the Affordable Care Act," April 1, 2014

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More by Julie Kliegman

Obama says more than 3 million young adults got health coverage from parents' plans

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