Racial and Regional Disparities in the Effect of the Affordable Care Act's Dependent Coverage Provision on Young Adult Trauma Patients

John W Scott, Ali Salim, Benjamin D Sommers, Thomas C Tsai, Kirstin W Scott, Zirui Song
Journal of the American College of Surgeons 2015, 221 (2): 495-501.e1

BACKGROUND: Disparities in trauma outcomes based on insurance and race are especially pronounced among young adults who have relatively high uninsured rates and incur a disproportionate share of trauma in the population. The 2010 Dependent Coverage Provision (DCP) of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) allowed young adults to remain on their parent's health insurance plans until age 26 years, leading to >3 million young adults gaining insurance. We investigated the impact of the DCP on racial disparities in coverage expansion among trauma patients.

STUDY DESIGN: Using the 2007-2012 National Trauma Data Bank, we compared changes in coverage among 529,844 19- to 25-year-olds with 484,974 controls aged 27 to 34 years not affected by the DCP. Subgroup analyses were conducted by race and ethnicity and by census region.

RESULTS: The pre-DCP uninsured rates among young adults were highest among black patients (48.1%) and Hispanic patients (44.3%), and significantly lower among non-Hispanic white patients (28.9%). However, non-Hispanic white young adults experienced a significantly greater absolute reduction in the uninsured rate (-4.9 percentage points) than black (-2.9; p = 0.01) and Hispanic (-1.7; p < 0.001) young adults. These absolute reductions correspond to a 17.0% relative reduction in the uninsured rate for white patients, 6.1% for black patients, and 3.7% for Hispanic patients. Racial disparities in the provision's impact on coverage among trauma patients were largest in the South and West census regions (p < 0.01).

CONCLUSIONS: Although the DCP increased insurance coverage for young adult trauma patients of all races, both absolute and relative racial disparities in insurance coverage widened. The extent of these racial disparities also differed by geographic region. Although this policy produced overall progress toward greater coverage among young adults, its heterogeneous impact by race has important implications for future disparities research in trauma.

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