There is less than one fourth signed up for healthcare among the young adults. This accounts for less than the government said will be needed for the economics of the health exchange to work well.
According to the report, released by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, 24 percent of the nearly 2.2 million people who enrolled in the marketplaces through the end of December are between the ages of 18 and 34. One-third are 55 to 64 years old.
These figures mean that the sign ups of young adults is far behind what the policy experts decreed would be the required number for a stable health insurance program. It had been analyzed that to keep health premiums low and affordable and for insurers to find it viable there should have 2 in 5 policy's by young adults.
In releasing the report, Obama administration officials were upbeat. The latest enrollment figures are "solid, solid news for us," a senior administration official told reporters at a White House briefing. The officials predicted that the health plans would attract more young adults during the second half of the open enrollment period for this year, which continues through March.
Even though Americans face a penalty clause when they don't buy insurance it will remain to be seen whether this is enough inducement for the young population to enroll for healthcare.
Administration officials said that their plans to intensify promotional efforts aimed at young adults will focus on two dozen communities in states such as Texas that rely on the federal marketplace and have especially large uninsured populations.
It is a bit too early to judge whether enrollment patterns will shift in the next few months is what Health-policy specialists and industry officials feel, although Republicans wielded the new figures as their latest weapon to condemn the federal health care law.
"Youth enrollment has been a bust so far," said Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said the proportion of young people "is lower than would be ideal." Still, he said, the proportion was "encouraging," given that people have another 2 1/2 months to enroll and that the federal online system, HealthCare.gov, had defects that prevented many people from signing up for much of the fall.
Young adults accounted for 44 percent of the people who signed up for health plans in Washington the highest percentage in the country. In both Maryland and Virginia, the share of 18- to 34-year-olds was 27 percent.
While Americans can sign up through March 31 for coverage in 2014, the December enrollment period was especially significant because the health plans took effect on New Year's Day and anyone who signed up by Dec. 24 and paid the premium they were covered from the first of the year.
Hannah Punitha (IRDA Licence Number: 2710062)
Amy Goldstein and Sandhya Somashekar, January 2014