health insuranceAs major provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) go into effect in January of next year, health insurance is more relevant than ever to many Americans, a June 2013 Kaiser Health Tracking Poll found. That includes young adults, a group that “many have speculated may be resistant to getting coverage under the ACA,” the Kaiser report notes.

According to the study, not only do a majority of young adults aged 18 to 30 value and believe in the necessity of health insurance, but they also worry just as much as older Americans about affording medical bills—especially those of a catastrophic nature.

“While young adults are often described as thinking of themselves as invincible, they might have more of an appetite for new health insurance coverage options than conventional wisdom suggests,” says Liz Hamel, an associate director of the Kaiser Foundation’s Public Opinion and Survey Research team.

The poll surveyed via phone 1,505 adults aged 18 and over living in the United States, Alaska, and Hawaii. More than 250 young adult participants were divided into two subgroups—18 to 25 and 26 to 30. According to Hamel, Kaiser aimed to show results separately for those under age 26 because they are eligible under the ACA to be covered by their parents’ health plans, and so their views and experiences may differ.

But the disparity in views was insignificant. Approximately three-quarters of those sampled within the subgroups believe

  • It is very important to them personally to have health insurance
  • Health insurance is something they need
  • Insurance is worth the money it costs

Despite feeling they need it, many young adults worry they can’t afford health insurance.

“The fact that over 3 million young adults have taken advantage of this provision, even if they are financially independent, speaks volumes about how much they value having high-quality, affordable health insurance,” says Jerry Kominski, a professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. “These facts are contrary to the myth that young people won’t seek health insurance subsidies in 2014 because it will still be too expensive.”

But while young adults believe that insurance is worth the money it costs, they similarly fear their ability to afford it. The study finds sizeable percentages of young adults worry about paying medical bills for a serious illness or accident—or even for routine health care.

“These worries are nothing new, and they are not limited to young adults,” Hamel notes. “Going back to 2004, we have consistently found that large shares of the public have said they are worried about having to pay more for health care or health insurance. These worries are often grounded in real experiences.” According to the report, those who are uninsured or have pre-existing conditions are often daunted by the cost of health insurance.

Do your research to find affordable health insurance that’s right for you.

“Many consumers may have new opportunities to obtain insurance once the major provisions of the ACA are implemented, including the new health insurance exchanges/marketplaces and financial help for low- and moderate-income Americans to purchase insurance,” says Hamel.

If you’ve recently decided that purchasing health insurance is a priority, it’s important that you understand your needs before you start shopping so that you can find the type of policy that will be right for you.

Tip 1: Ask yourself important questions about your medical history, such as:

  • Are there certain doctors you need to be able to see? If so, are they in- or out-of-network?
  • Do you have any pre-existing conditions?
  • If you’re on a specific medication, is it covered under the plan?

Tip 2: Compare the premiums (the amount paid annually or monthly) and deductibles (out-of-pocket expenses) of various plans.

Tip 3: Make sure you read the fine print so you know what you’re really getting.

Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions, and consider using a broker or agent to help guide your search. If you prefer to do it yourself, look into online insurance marketplaces that allow you to put in your own search criteria to find a plan. With some research, you can find a plan that suits your needs and your budget.