Changes in Insurance Coverage Continuity After Affordable Care Act Expansion of Medicaid Eligibility for Young Adults With Low Income in Massachusetts

JAMA Health Forum. 2022 Jul 15;3(7):e221996. doi: 10.1001/jamahealthforum.2022.1996. eCollection 2022 Jul.


Importance: Young adults historically have had the highest uninsured rates among all age groups. In 2014, in addition to Medicaid expansion for adults with low income (≤133% of the federal poverty level [FPL]) through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Massachusetts also extended eligibility for children (≤150% FPL) to beneficiaries aged 19 to 20 years.

Objective: To examine changes in insurance coverage continuity for Medicaid enrollees who turned age 19 years before and after eligibility policy changes.

Design setting and participants: This cohort study used data from the Massachusetts All-Payer Claims Database (2012 to 2016) to compare coverage for Medicaid beneficiaries turning age 19 years before and after Medicaid expansion. Monthly coverage was examined for each cohort for 3 years as beneficiaries aged from 18 and 19 years to 19 and 20 years to 20 and 21 years. Analyses were performed between November 1, 2020, and May 12, 2022.

Main outcomes and measures: In each year, the likelihood of being uninsured or having Medicaid, employer-sponsored insurance, or individual commercial coverage for 3 or more months was examined along with the likelihood of having continuous Medicaid enrollment for 12 or more and 24 or more months. Multivariable linear probability models were used to compare the likelihood of these outcomes for those in the postexpansion vs preexpansion cohorts, adjusting for sex, comorbidity levels, neighborhood socioeconomic status, and neighborhood race and ethnicity.

Results: A total of 41 247 young adults turning age 18 to 19 years in the baseline year (20 876 [50.6%] men) were included in the study, with 20 777 in the preexpansion cohort and 20 470 in the postexpansion cohort. Enrollees who turned age 19 years after vs before the Medicaid eligibility expansion were less likely to have 3 or more uninsured months at ages 18 to 19 years (4.4% [n = 891] vs 22.9% [n = 4750]; adjusted difference, -18.4 [95% CI, -19.0 to -17.7] percentage points) and 19 to 20 years (13.2% [n = 2702] vs 35.8% [n = 7447]; adjusted difference, -22.4 [95% CI, -23.2 to -21.6] percentage points) and more likely to have continuous insurance coverage for 12 or more months (94.1% [n = 19 272] vs 63.7% [n = 13 234]; adjusted difference, 30.5 [95% CI, 29.7-31.2] percentage points) or 24 or more months (77.5% [n = 15 868] vs 44.4% [n = 9221]; adjusted difference, 33.0 [95% CI, 32.1-33.9] percentage points). Differences in the likelihood of having 3 or more uninsured months diminished at ages 20 to 21 years, when both groups had access to Medicaid (ie, in calendar years 2014 for the preexpansion cohort and 2016 for the postexpansion cohort).

Conclusions and relevance: In this cohort study of young adults in Massachusetts, the combination of expanding Medicaid to lower-income adults and increasing the age threshold for child Medicaid eligibility was associated with reduced likelihood of becoming uninsured among Medicaid enrollees entering adulthood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insurance Coverage
  • Insurance, Health
  • Male
  • Massachusetts
  • Medicaid*
  • Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act*
  • Poverty
  • United States
  • Young Adult