How are young adults benefiting from U.S. health care reform?

A new graduate makes one last effort to find employment before leaving campus. See more college pictures.
Associated Press/Nancy Palmieri

Spring is graduation season, a time for flinging mortarboards to the sky and framing those hard-earned diplomas. But it's also a time of uncertainty for many grads. What will they do? Where will they live? What will the real world be like?

Saying hello to these grown-up responsibilities often means saying goodbye to their parents' health insurance for many young adults. Each state has its own regulations outlining when young people must be removed from these insurance plans, and in several states, that end point is linked to student status. But for many of these new graduates, it will be a struggle to find that first full-time job, complete with benefits like health coverage. Some might pursue unpaid internships and part-time retail work in the meantime, which leaves these young people with a big decision: Should they purchase individual health insurance, which can be extremely pricey? Or do they forgo health insurance altogether?

Statistics show that many young people go for the latter. According to the nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund, 13.2 million young adults aged 19 to 29 -- about 30 percent of that population -- lacked health insurance in 2007. Young people are one of the largest groups of uninsured in the country, and for some of them, that arrangement may work fine. The young, after all, are fairly healthy, but without insurance, they're only one car accident away from financial disaster. Without coverage to see a doctor about something small and routine, the problem could become quite big indeed by the time they finally get it checked out. And when a young, uninsured person shows up in a hospital emergency room, the bill has to be paid somehow. Usually, those people with insurance end up picking up the tab in the form of higher premiums.

In March 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law. The legislation is designed to lower the costs of health insurance for everyone, but there are some special provisions for these young adults beginning to make their way in the world. Best of all, these changes go into effect this year, not in 2014, when many of the act's provisions do. Class of 2010 (or anyone under the age of 26), read on to find out about your graduation present.