Got Insurance? Health Care Reform and Students

Daniel Choi

“Just like the change that began in our campaign, it starts with people – especially young people – who are determined to take this nation’s destiny into their own hands.”
-President Barack Obama

As members of Congress seek an alternative to the current U.S. health care system, more than 10 million young adults ages 19 to 26 remain uninsured.

According to a study by the Urban Institute, a non-partisan organization, young adults account for 28 percent of the uninsured adult population, but make up only 18 percent of the total population.

The high rate of uninsured young adults compared to older adults stems from various factors. The former is more likely to hover around the federal poverty line, placing health insurance out of their budget. While 30 percent have incomes below the poverty line, only 12 percent of older adults have an income of less than $10,830, the poverty income level in all U.S. states, excluding Alaska and Hawaii. It increases by $3,470 for each additional member in a family.

In addition, since the rate of marriage and full-time employment are low among young adults, they are less likely to be offered employer-sponsored insurance
Medi-Cal, California’s public health insurance program, provides health services to residents based on income and resources. However, regardless of income and medical needs, individuals over the age of 21 who are not senior citizens, pregnant or disabled generally do not qualify for assistance.

More than half of all U.S. states extend dependent coverage past the standard cut-off age of 19, but different rules apply in each state. In California, dependent children may stay under their parents’ insurance plan indefinitely. In some states, however, marriage and schooling play a factor. The cut-off age in Idaho is 21 for unmarried non-students. For full-time students, it is 25.

During President Obama’s election campaign, he proposed expanding public programs such as Medicaid and requiring all private insurers’ to extend coverage of children to the age of 26.

On Sept. 17, during a speech at the University of Maryland, President Obama reiterated his proposal for extended coverage.

“Listen up, young people.under my plan, if your parents have health insurance and you’re currently on their policy, you will automatically be able to keep your coverage until you’re 26 years old,” said Obama.?”That means you will know that you’ve got health insurance.”

Other than external forces, many young adults willingly forgo health insurance plans. They see their youth as a protective barrier from health problems suffered mainly by those who are older. If more young adults purchased health insurance, it would spread out risk, and premiums for older adults would decrease.

Whichever health care reform bill is passed and approved, people of all ages should be able to afford health insurance whether it is through cheaper plans or subsidies.

Under the Senate and Finance Committee’s bill, Medicaid would expand and cover all individuals living in near poverty. A “young invincible” plan would be made available, which provides catastrophic coverage for individuals 25 and younger. The plan is designed to reduce costs in the event of a major accident or extensive medical care, meaning a high deductible and low premium. The bill requires most U.S. citizens and legal residents to have health insurance. To enforce the requirement, individuals face tax penalties ranging from $750 to $950 depending on level of income.

23-year-old Catherine Manabat, who graduated from UCLA and is currently enrolled at GCC, sees the penalties as an unfair necessity.
“I think the reason for the penalty is a way for them [the government] to find a way to still have money coming in for it,” she said. “I don’t think it’s necessarily fair, but I guess the money has to come from somewhere.”