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Children's National Psychologist Writes About Needs of Young Adults in Affordable Care Act

July 16, 2014

Washington, DC - Maureen Monaghan, PhD,  a pediatric psychologist at Children’s National writes of the unique challenges that young adults face in maintaining health insurance coverage and access to healthcare despite changes prompted by the Affordable Care Act in the journal Translational Behavioral Medicine.

Children’s National focuses on the needs of teenagers as they transition into adult care, through its Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine, and other specialty units.

Inflexible schedules of healthcare practices, coupled with lack of phone or email service after hours in primary care practices are significant barriers to accessing care for young adults between the ages of 18 and 25, according to Monaghan’s policy review, entitled, The Affordable Care Act and Implications for Young Adults.

Children moving into adulthood are also managing many “developmental milestones” in addition to leaving pediatric medical care, she says.

Monaghan is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the Center for Translational Sciences. She works with the Child and Adolescent Diabetes Program on transition services for youth with diabetes and provides outpatient therapy services at the Children’s Outpatient Center of Northern Virginia.

Beginning in September 2010, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) allowed young adults to be covered under their parents’ plans until 26 years of age. Yet in the U.S., young adults are most likely to be uninsured and least likely to report a usual source of medical care than any other group. “Transition to adult medical care often creates gaps in care, and we have to better match the young adult lifestyle,” Monaghan says.

The ACA is making inroads on improving healthcare for young adults, but there are still significant gaps in care, Monaghan says, noting that “systematic changes in the delivery of health care services could encourage more young adults to access a usual source of health care.”

“Schedules of health care practices often are not conducive to the schedules of young adults. Young adults are often unable to contact a physician over the telephone or via email, or obtain care after hours,” Monaghan writes.

Changes in care delivery models for young people also can reduce their reliance on emergency departments, Monaghan says. “Some young adults don’t realize they need health services until something happens, say on a Saturday night, and they end up in the emergency room.”  

The ACA also may offer inroads for improved mental health care and behavioral health since the ACA requires all new insurance plans to cover mental health as one of the essential health benefit categories, Monaghan says.

The use of electronic medical records between hospital systems and community physicians is a step forward in helping to improve access to care for young adults, Monaghan says.

Contact: Emily Hartman or Joe Cantlupe at 202-476-4500.

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About Children's National Health System

Children’s National Health System, based in Washington, D.C., has served the nation’s children since 1870. Children’s National is one of the nation’s Top 5 pediatric hospitals and, for a second straight year, is ranked No. 1 in newborn care, as well as ranked in all specialties evaluated by U.S. News & World Report. It has been designated two times as a Magnet® hospital, a designation given to hospitals that demonstrate the highest standards of nursing and patient care delivery. This pediatric academic health system offers expert care through a convenient, community-based primary care network and specialty outpatient centers in the D.C. Metropolitan area, including the Maryland suburbs and Northern Virginia. Home to the Children’s Research Institute and the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation, Children’s National is the seventh-highest NIH-funded pediatric institution in the nation. Children’s National is recognized for its expertise and innovation in pediatric care and as a strong voice for children through advocacy at the local, regional and national levels. 

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