What is the Impact of ACA's Adult Dependent Mandate on Health Care Spending?

One of the early provisions of the Affordable Care Act required health plans to expand eligibility for dependents to age 26 regardless of full-time student status, tax-dependent status, employment status, or marital status.  This provision was implemented for policy years that began on or after September 23, 2010, six months after the ACA was signed into law.  The above chart illustrates employers expectations of increased cost as a result of this change.  41% of employers expected health care costs to increase up to 5%, 9% of employers expected costs to increase more than 5%, and 27% expected no change.

An estimated 3.1 million young adults have acquired health coverage as a result of the mandate.  99.5% of these young adults were under age 23, and 54% were male.  

Employee Benefit Research Institute reports that studies, which compare this Adult Dependent Mandate (ADM) population to the already enrolled population for ages 19-25, illustrate differences in health spending.  The studies show that the ADM group was nearly 50% more likely to utilize services for mental health, substance abuse, and pregnancy.  Studies also indicate the overall increase in health care spending is less than 1%.  The increase in spending is shared by employers and employees through claims payments and insurance premiums.