Cross Roads: Health Care Reform and YOUth

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Last week, the Senate passed the Health Care Reform Bill, bringing this one step closer to becoming a law.  But what does that mean for us?  No one is talking straight to the young people and with 13 million of us uninsured we need to know what to expect.





I hardly ever make doctor’s appointments unless my mother nags, or reminds me.  Being away at school, my time at home is limited and the last thing I want to do is spend my day at the doctor’s office.  But with the small amount of time I have left until I graduate I just may want to book as many appointments I can before that option vanishes and I am forced to provide my own insurance. That moment became just a slight bit more real on a trip to the eye doctor a couple weeks ago.  





It was another forced trip.  When we arrived at the office in Long Island and we signed in, the woman asked me for my insurance.  I informed her that it was the same as my mom’s.  She then proceeded to tell me I was no longer on that insurance plan.  I was a bit shocked, until she informed my mom that perhaps she had not sent in the letter to the company proving that I was still in school and thus still able to be a dependent on the insurance policy.  She hadn’t.  But it was in that moment it hit me that I one day would not have insurance and there wouldn’t be anything I could do about it but wait until a decent job with full benefits came around.


The thought of Health Insurance is often on the bottom of the priority list for young people until they need it.  Until that tooth ache bothers us to the point where we cannot function or we break a leg playing our favorite sport.  Insurance and doctors visits are the last thing we are thinking about (co-pay? NO way).  If you think it’s just you or your friends who think this way, think again.  Experts and researchers have coined the 20′s demographic as the “Young Invicibles.”  This group usually doesn’t have insurance nor do they feel they need it, but when this health reform bill goes into effect, those “invincibles” will have fees to pay.  Fees are expected to be as low as $95 in 2014 and as high as $750 by 2016.


These fines stem from the very fact that 13 million Americans aged 19-29 are uninsured.  In order to keep them from slipping through and getting them on board these fees have been put in place.  This cohort, just as any, is crucial in sustaining the financing of the bill for everyone.


According to the NYTIMES, “The bill would require most Americans to have health insurance, would add 15 million people to the Medicaid rolls and would subsidize private coverage for low- and middle-income people, at a cost to the government of $871 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.”  This would provide coverage to 31 million uninsured people, though this number is far from “universal” and will still leave 23 million uninsured in 2019.  Most of those remaining without coverage are expected to be illegal immigrants.


The Senate Reform Bill and the House Reform Bill both have the same basic structure but different price tags and benefits.  After reviewing reports on both the House Bill seems to be way more expensive (how it is funded is unclear) but loaded with way more benefits.  The Senate Bill is set to go into effect by 2014, and the House Bill by 2013.  The Senate plan would extend coverage to young people as dependents under their parents plan only until the age of 26 while the House plan extends until the age of 27.  This provision would go into effect subsequently six months after the final bill is passed.  For those, however, with no options in terms of claiming someone else’s insurance and still cannot afford it Medicaid will be an option.  Under the bill Medicaid options will be extended to childless young adults who meet certain criteria.  



For young people, there’s a major focus on first getting them some type of insurance and then getting them on track with preventative care.  This reform will offer free prevention screenings to all insured people.  This might prove helpful in decreasing some of these numbers reported in TIME of young people who have serious health issues, “An August report from the Commonwealth Fund stated that 15% of adults ages 18 to 29 suffer from arthritis, asthma, cancer, diabetes, heart disease or hypertension — and more than half are overweight. They also end up getting injured quite often — 24% of Americans ages 18 to 29 visited an emergency department in 2008, according to the fund.” 


All in all the bill seems to present options.  Though we will be forced to adopt a plan where before we could happily go without one (if we chose to) we are now going to be required to have insurance but we will have a choice.  As young people we will be adopting brand new insurance plans and so we do not have to deal with the messy exchanges and dealing with the companies about trying to leave our current plans.  As of now, most of us either have no insurance or are still under our parents.  Pay close attention to how this unfolds in the next few weeks.  We are at a cross roads.  The Bill has passed in the House, and the Senate and now comes the process of merging those two very different bills into one (and I haven’t even mentioned the issue over abortion policies).  The deadline is for this to hopefully be done before the Presidential Address (late January, early Februrary).      


Take a look at CNN’s Sanja Gupta taking a caller asking about her daughter and health insurance.

  • 13 million Americans aged 19-29 are uninsured. (source)
  • An August report from the Commonwealth Fund stated that 15% of adults ages 18 to 29 suffer from arthritis, asthma, cancer, diabetes, heart disease or hypertension — and more than half are overweight. They also end up getting injured quite often — 24% of Americans ages 18 to 29 visited an emergency department in 2008, according to the fund. (source)
  • Cost barriers are particularly problematic for young women. In 33 states, insurance companies are permitted to charge higher premiums based on age, gender, and health status without any restrictions whatsoever. Younger women are often charged higher premiums than men during their reproductive years. Holding other factors constant, a 22-year-old woman can be charged one and a half times the premium of a 22-year-old man. (source)
  • If the bill becomes law, it would be a milestone in social policy, comparable with the creation of Social Security in 1935 and Medicare in 1965. But unlike those programs, the new initiative lacks bipartisan support. Only one Republican voted for the House bill last month, and no Republicans voted for the Senate version. (source)

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