Health reform made relevant

The health care law makes it easier for young adults to find and keep coverage.

Jennifer Bissell

As a young adult, itâÄôs hard to find a job these days âÄî even harder can be finding health insurance. Often, job-based coverage is not offered for young adults as they start their careers in part-time, temporary or low-level positions. As a result, young adults ages 19 to 29 make up one-third of the population without health insurance. It is commonly thought that young adults are healthy and therefore do not need health insurance. However, the Commonwealth Fund, an independent nonprofit research group, cites that one in six young adults have a common chronic condition such as high blood pressure, asthma or cancer. One in four are obese. And one in six will end up in the ER this year. Young adults arenâÄôt as healthy as they are perceived to be. When uninsured, young adults often fail to prevent future health complications, according to the Commonwealth Fund. Many will delay or skip recommended treatments, tests and prescriptions, leading to increased rates of disease and illness later on. Some might say thatâÄôs their problem, but a report published by the CQ Researcher explains that the increasing price of health care is partially fueled by the uninsured. Often, those without health insurance end up using the ER, which is the most expensive form of treatment, because they tend to wait until their condition is critical before seeking medical attention. The hospitals must treat them, but because they are uninsured, hospitals, insurers and taxpayers end up with the bill. The basic idea behind requiring health insurance is to save the nation money in the long run. The government pays a high percentage of the costs for the uninsured, and by requiring insurance along with other measures of the reform, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the federal budget deficit will decrease by $143 billion over the next 10 years. Now of course the health care reform will cost money too, and for some young adults, prices may increase. An analysis of the overall health care reform by the Associated Press has shown that young adults with middle to high incomes may see their premiums increase by 17 percent, or to an average of $42 a month. Additionally, the legislation is expected to cost $938 billion over a decade. Obviously, no one likes increased costs, but one should first question how else an investment in public health can be made. The plans offered are all made to provide quality, affordable access to health care for everyone. Public health is an important investment to make. Now, with the help of the health reform, young adults can not only receive the medical attention they need, but also prevent future health complications. Young adults have enough on their minds with finishing school, finding a job and embarking on a new chapter of their lives. Finding access to health care without crippling your finances should be a given. Health care reform makes great strides in providing coverage for young adults. The following changes, ushered in by the new law, will assist many in finding a health care plan while they start their careers. Parental support Typically, a familyâÄôs health care plan will cover dependants until the age of 19, or 25 if the dependant attends school. With reform, a dependant can remain on his or her familyâÄôs plan until the age of 26, regardless of their status as students. The kind of coverage and the price tag is contingent on the familyâÄôs plan, but the insurance company canâÄôt drop its coverage or cap the amount it will pay for the dependant. This plan will go into effect six months from now, and will not be offered to young adults with job-based coverage. The health insurance exchange A health insurance exchange will help young adults who are not covered as dependants or through employment easily compare health care plans and prices. For most, premiums will be capped at 3 to 9.5 percent of the individualâÄôs income, depending on how much he or she makes. But for those making less than $14,400, Medicare is available, and for those making less than $43,300, subsidies will be awarded. The exchange will be launched in 2014. Catastrophic insurance plans Those under the age of 30 will be given the option to purchase a catastrophic insurance plan. The plan is designed to give healthy young adults a backup plan in case of an emergency âÄî essentially a bare-bones safety net. The plan will typically have a lower monthly premium around $30, but higher out-of-pocket expenses for the medical care received. However, these expenses will be limited to $6,000; the rest is covered. Small business coverage According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there is a high probability that young adults will work for a small business as they begin their careers. However, with the high price of premiums, small businesses often canâÄôt afford to offer health insurance to their employees. To counteract this, the reform will offer tax credits covering up to 35 percent of the premiums by 2010 and 50 percent by 2014. Additionally, companies that do not offer insurance and have more than 50 employees may be charged extra penalties as an incentive to provide job-based coverage. Jennifer Bissell welcomes comments at [email protected]