My own twenty-something is healthy and fit, thank goodness. But something could happen. Even if she stays well and uninjured, just having the ability to have a check-up is important.
So my reaction to Obamacare is basically, whew. This young adult can stay on my health insurance up to age 26. After that, if her job doesn’t offer insurance or she wants to start her own business, she’ll have good options for coverage.
I know an awful lot of twenty-somethings. Whether they’re working or studying they’re busy bees.
And when I think of them, one thing is clear: they should have health insurance.
With the health insurance marketplaces about to open on Oct. 1, some claim these young people shouldn’t get health insurance, that it’s a bad deal for them. But how could that be?
What if they have an illness? One of my students had cystic fibrosis. Following a double lung transplant, he needed expensive medication to prevent rejection and lots of costly tests and follow-up visits with specialists.
A careless driver hit another, who was riding a bike. She needed hospitalization, surgery and physical therapy.
A friend’s son, now twenty-something, had leukemia in his teens and a bone marrow transplant. Imagine if he started feeling really tired but didn’t have insurance and couldn’t get it because of his pre-existing condition.
But insurance isn’t just needed for sickness and accidents. Young women get pregnant and need prenatal care to have healthy children. Pregnancy and delivery are expensive.
So why do some argue young people shouldn’t bother?
Obamacare opponents often say that young adults will be subsidizing older Americans who get more expensive care. They see this as unfair to young adults.
However, people under 30 can buy low-cost catastrophic coverage that includes preventive care with no co-pay. The law provides for different rates by age, so older folks will pay higher rates.
But, to the extent there is a subsidy, so what? It’s not as if young adults have paid for everything they’ve gotten. Middle-age and older Americans funded younger people’s schooling. When it comes to K-12 schools, plenty of people pay property taxes when they don’t have children in school, even if they never had any kids at all. And if the young adults went to college, they benefited from federal spending.
Besides which, we have an inter-generational compact. Age, disability and sickness are likely to hit everyone. Young people today will be older later and will help support children and those coming into adulthood. What comes around goes around.
And when you look closely at financial calculations from people who say young people won’t benefit, they’re mathematically dishonest.
How so? Critics compare the cost of insurance to the fine one might pay if no insurance is purchased. But the numbers are frequently incorrect. For one, critics often leave out the financial aid that’s available to people buying insurance through the marketplace. This overstates premiums’ cost.
Then this calculation is made even stranger by leaving out the benefits of having insurance and misstating the cost of the fine for not buying insurance. Fines won’t stay at the first year’s rate; they’ll go up. And if you don’t figure in the benefits people get from having care covered by insurance, the arithmetic is just completely off.
Sometimes those telling young people not to buy insurance claim they can buy insurance anytime they want. Just wait, they say, until you actually need health care.
But that advice is both factually wrong and terribly irresponsible. Each year there is a purchasing window. This year, people can pick insurance from the marketplace between October 2013 and March 2014. Every other year the window is narrower, just October-December.
What happens if you miss the window? You have to pay for whatever costs you’ve incurred when you didn’t have insurance and you can’t get insurance until the next calendar year. And you’re less likely to get the preventive care that improves health and saves lives because that’s not offered by the only medical locales that have to see you, emergency rooms.
As a parent, I’m glad that health insurance is more available to my young adult. And I bet other parents with twenty-somethings feel the same.
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