‘Young invincibles’

Young people, ages 19 to 29, comprise the largest group of the uninsured in the United States.

WeâÄôre young and healthy; health insurance companies have deemed us the âÄúYoung invincibles.âÄù So why bother with insurance? Out of school, many young people in their 20s are often too old to be covered under their parentâÄôs insurance, and because their personal finances remain unstable, health insurance is often the first to go. The argument? Why invest in health care youâÄôll never need? Certainly, the invincibility that young people feel is showing up in the numbers of the uninsured. In concurrence with much of the media, CNN reported Monday that young people, ages 19 to 29, comprise the largest group of the uninsured in the United States. Numbers from the 2007 Census Bureau report that at 13.2 million, it is also the fastest growing group and comprise 30 percent of the nearly 47 million uninsured Americans. Additionally, reported CNN, only half those in the work force younger than 30 are offered insurance by their employers, compared to the 75 percent of those over age 30 who are offered insurance. A number of factors contribute to these large numbers. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures , âÄúYoung adultsâÄô ability to attain and secure health insurance coverage for themselves is often difficult. Ordinary transitions in and out of school and jobs throughout their 20s affects their ability to remain on their parentâÄôs or guardianâÄôs policy or become eligible for employer-sponsored health insurance. Entry level low-paying and temporary jobs typically do not offer health benefits. Purchasing health insurance in the individual market is unaffordable, given that 50 percent of uninsured young adults reside in households with incomes below the federal poverty level.âÄù In Minnesota, opportunities to be insured under the State ChildrenâÄôs Health Insurance Plan (SCHIP) end at 19 years of age, and many become uninsured as their parentsâÄô stop claiming them as dependents. (Minnesota statue 62 E.02 defines a dependent âÄî a spouse or unmarried child âÄî up to age 25). Here at the University of Minnesota, students are required to prove they are covered under a parentâÄôs health insurance plan or purchase a plan from the University. Though the University has held the policy of mandatory insurance since the 1970s, many other universities in the United States are piloting similar programs to combat the large number of uninsured young people. Still, according to surveys and a Minnesota Daily report last week, even here at the University 10 percent of students still slip through the cracks without insurance. Obviously, no one wakes up and thinks, âÄúIâÄôll probably come down with a case of Hepatitis today.âÄù But to be honest, how many young people spend their weekends out at bars and accidents happen. Spring break is next week, and many are traveling; the risk of injury could easily be increased with a change in routine. Though I could offer sad anecdotes about accidents, injuries and young people, why donâÄôt I tell you how to fix it, instead? And after a hazy proposal this week, we certainly canâÄôt wait for President Barack Obama to fix it for us. New policies take time, but with a little research, coverage in Minnesota can actually be attained for young people with fairly little effort. Here are two good options for those who donâÄôt have health insurance or are graduating and may lose their University coverage. University Conversion Plan This is ongoing healthcare coverage offered to students from the University of Minnesota after they graduate, and it offers a guaranteed coverage option for an unlimited time period between graduation and the time you become eligible for employer-sponsored health insurance. The program gives you your choice of five Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota individual plan options for guaranteed coverage without having to prove insurability. Costs are based on the deductible and network you choose. According to the serviceâÄôs website, you must be enrolled in the University-sponsored Student Health Benefit Plan (SHBP) in the previous semester to be eligible for the Student Conversion Plan. That said, if you are currently covered by a different health insurance plan and would like to utilize the University Conversion plan, consider switching to the SHBP prior to your last semester. Students who remain on their parentâÄôs plan or other insurance plan will not be able to take advantage of the Student Conversion Plan after graduation. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota must receive enrollment forms on or before March 20, 2009. Minnesota Care Minnesota Care is a service offered to Minnesota residents who do not have access to affordable health care through Blue Plus, a local non-profit affiliated with Blue Cross Blue Shield. According its to website from the Minnesota Department of Human services, eligible individuals can choose their primary care physicians and will be covered for a variety of services, including doctor visits, hospitalization up to $10,000, family planning prescriptions, eye exams, interpreters, prescriptions, eye glasses, dental care, etc. Premiums are based an individualâÄôs income, and these income limits vary by family size. Eligible applicants must have lived in Minnesota a minimum of six months prior to applying and must have a social security number and be a U.S. Citizen. Only those who do not currently have health insurance or are not able to get health insurance from an employer offering to pay at least half the monthly cost will be considered. For a full list of income and asset limits, visit the Minnesota Department of Human Services website. Asset $10,000 for a single person and $20,000 for a family of two or more âÄî houses, vehicles and independently owned retirement funds are not included. Kelsey Kudak welcomes comments at [email protected]