How Will Obamacare Repeal Affect The Under-26ers?

by Chris Tognotti

The inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump is now less than one week away, which means there's now less than one week until years of work in the Republican-controlled House and Senate will finally pay off for them. Throughout the Obama era, the congressional GOP voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act (popularly known as Obamacare) dozens upon dozens of times, only to be vetoed by President Obama. But with Trump's presidency looming on the horizon, soon the last barrier to repeal will fall ― so, how will Obamacare repeal affect people under 26 staying on a parent's insurance plan?

The simple answer is it'll affect them a lot, and not in a positive way. While less attention-grabbing and essential than guaranteeing anybody can purchase health insurance, regardless of any pre-existing conditions, one of the major beneficial changes Obamacare introduced for younger Americans was the ability to stay on a parent's health insurance plan until the age of 26, unlike previously when turning 19 was the cutoff. For the children of the insured, that's a potential extra seven years of coverage, at a period of many people's lives when they're less inclined to take their long-term health coverage quite as seriously as when they've aged a bit.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images News/Getty Images

But that provision of the law was thrust on the chopping block during the Senate's controversial so-called "vote-a-rama" on preliminary plans for an Obamacare repeal, which stretched into in the early-morning hours of Thursday, Jan. 12. An amendment was introduced by Democratic Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin aimed at preserving that aspect of the health care law, but it was promptly voted down by Senate Republicans.

That's not to say that it definitely wouldn't be included in a prospective Republican replacement plan, but such a detailed plan currently does not exist, a fact which nonetheless isn't slowing down the repeal effort. Since the election, Trump has publicly acknowledged that he'd like to see the under-26 provision remain a facet of American health insurance, as well as the ban on discriminating over pre-existing conditions.

But at the very moment Obamacare is fully repealed, barring either some carve-outs preserving the under-26 provision (which the swatted-down amendment effort on Thursday morning doesn't bode well for), or the immediate passage of a replacement bill re-instituting it, things will go back to the way they used to be. In other words, if you're a 23-year-old on a parent's plan, you'd lose your health insurance and have to seek it out yourself, whether on the private market, or through government programs for low-income residents, provided your state enables that.


In simple terms, this is the human cost of the GOP's zeal to undo Obamacare ― millions of people are going to undergo a great deal of turmoil because of it, including some number of people who'll lose their lives or spiral into medical bill-induced poverty. That's the line of attack that Democrats and progressive have been forcefully making since the Republican repeal effort hit its stride ― Democratic primary challenger and liberal firebrand Bernie Sanders plainly warned that if Obamacare is repealed, preventable death would follow.

I think it’s important for this country to know this was not a usual thing, this is a day which lays the groundwork for 30 million people to be thrown off their health insurance. And if that happens, many of these people will die.

It's clear so far that the repeal efforts have the full backing of President-elect Trump, who tweeted "the "Unaffordable" Care Act will soon be history" after the Senate GOP's controversial late-night series of votes. Whether his full-throated support might evaporate in the face of massive public outcry, however, is unclear.