HEALTH REFORM: Young Adults May Be Key to Making (cont.)

The Young Invincibles' Postolowksi estimated that 17 million of the 19 million currently uninsured young people between the ages of 18 and 34 could potentially qualify for tax credits through the health exchanges or Medicaid, if all states expanded Medicaid.

Student and dependent coverage

Young adults have a few other options for getting health insurance.

College students can enroll in a student health plan through their school. Under the health reform law, most plans must meet the same requirements as other individual plans, meaning no annual limits or lifetime caps on coverage and no exclusions for pre-existing conditions, Postolowski said.

Or, if they're under age 26, they can enroll in a parent's health plan if the plan provides dependent coverage.

Beginning in 2014, there's a new wrinkle: Adult children can enroll in mom or dad's health plan even if they have an offer of coverage through their employer or through their school, Postolowski explained.

The health reform law also allows young adults under age 30 and some other people with limited incomes to buy what's called a "catastrophic" health plan. These plans have lower premiums but higher deductibles and provide protection against a major illness or accident.

Byrd, the young asthma sufferer, understands the importance of having insurance and doesn't intend to drag his heels.

"I'm learning as I get older to take these things more seriously," he said.

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SOURCES: Linda Rowings, J.D., chief compliance officer, United Benefit Advisors, Indianapolis; Sara Collins, Ph.D., vice president, affordable health insurance, The Commonwealth Fund, New York City; National Center for Public Policy Research, Washington, D.C.; Dennis Byrd, Rockville, Md.; Christina Postolowski, J.D., senior policy analyst, Young Invincibles, Washington, D.C.; FreedomWorks, Washington, D.C.; U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, D.C.; HealthCare.gov