Young adults using Obamacare for depression, pregnancy, drug abuse

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets

The one new group already using Obamacare -- older children up to age 26 added to their parents' insurance -- are fueling a surge in coverage for pregnancy, substance abuse and depression far greater than young adults who were already covered by mom and dad, according to a new study.

The survey of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's popular provision that requires employers to extend coverage to children found at one huge employer that the three treatments account for 60 percent of hospital claims for the young adults who signed up in 2011 under Obamacare.

The Employee Benefit Research Institute said that is nearly double the number of claims by young adults who were already enrolled in their parents' plan before the provision went into effect in 2011. The study said that substance abuse, pregnancy and mental illness accounted for about a third of the claims for that group.

For its survey, the institute studied an unnamed corporate giant that covers 200,000 people and spent $1 billion for health coverage in 2010 and 2011.

Before the change, the company generally covered children until age 23 if they were full-time students, or 19 if they weren't. After Obamacare kicked in, 700 young adults were added to the company's rolls. They were older than the children of workers already covered by the company.

Nationwide, the study said that 3.1 million young adults have taken advantage of the change, with most being unmarried adults, nonstudents and men.

The study also found that including the older kids has slightly increased insurance costs, and that those who joined their parents' coverage after the rule went into effect spent more on health care than those already on their parents' plan.

The study, however, did not indicate why spending was higher or why the Obamacare group required significantly more coverage for substance abuse, depression and pregnancy, other than noting that the children covered by the company are older.