Young people are the least likely to be insured, the least likely to need healthcare, and the least talked-about group in the healthcare debate. Yet we may end up paying dearly for healthcare reform. If you’re young and healthy like me, you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about healthcare. And that’s probably alright—you’re young and healthy. But there are just a few things that every young adult really does need to know about healthcare:
Over 47 million Americans lack health insurance; 39 percent of the uninsured are between the ages of 18 and 34, according to Qvisory.
It makes sense that young people are the least insured. We’re more likely to be in school or working part-time and not have access to employer-sponsored health insurance. We don’t qualify for government programs like Medicaid. Our incomes are low, so we can’t afford even the least expensive policies. Finally, because we’re young and healthy, many of us simply feel invincible and like we don’t need insurance.
Half of the states extend the age that dependents may be covered by their parents’ insurance beyond age 19.
If you live in one of these 25 states, your parents may be able to include you on their health insurance plan.
Medical bills are the leading cause of consumer bankruptcy.
According to a study by The New England Journal of Medicine, “illness or medical bills contributed to nearly two thirds, or 62 percent, of all bankruptcies in 2007—before the major impact of the housing collapse and current economic downturn”. If you get sick or injured and don’t have insurance, there’s a good chance your medical bills will drive you into bankruptcy. But the problem doesn’t stop with the uninsured. According to this related Consumer Reports article,
Just over three-quarters of people who suffered a bankruptcy due to illness were insured at the onset of their health issue. But the total out-of-pocket medical costs for those who had insurance when they became ill was a steep $17,749, on average. For those who didn’t have insurance, the average debt was $26,971.
Young adults may pay for a big part of healthcare reform.
Again, a big reason young people are under-insured is because we can’t afford coverage. The low-cost insurance options Washington is proposing as part of healthcare reform will help, but they don’t solve this problem entirely.
First, since young adults are healthier and less costly to insure, our premiums will subsidize the care of the older and the sicker. But most critically, if the government mandates that Americans have health insurance, we may have to pay a fine if we don’t purchase a policy. According to this Washington Post article:
[One bill] would fine individuals who do not purchase coverage. An early draft of the proposal set the penalty at $750 or $950 per year for single people, depending on income. But according to various insurance experts, even the least expensive plan under the bill could cost more than $100 per month, making it cheaper for people to pay the fine than to buy insurance.
In effect, this may not solve young Americans’ healthcare problem at all: it simply taxes those that continue to go without healthcare while providing less expensive (but potentially still unaffordable) plans.
You can buy health insurance on your own, right now.
Many young people don’t realize that you can buy health insurance even if you don’t get it through your employer, college, or parents. You probably can’t afford “Cadillac” health insurance plans like those offered by some employers, but you may be able to afford what are called “catastrophic” plans that will cover you should you get into an accident or suddenly become sick. Two resources can help:
- Qvisory has partnered with insurers to provide affordable plans specifically for young people. Learn more about Qvisory health insurance plans.
- eHealthInsurance is a Website that lets all consumers shop for and compare hundreds of different plans. Learn more about eHealthInsurance.
What do you think? Do you think the government should require Americans to buy health insurance or pay a fine? What would you do? Are you young and dealing with extraordinary healthcare costs? Were you insured? Please share your story in a comment.