The Dumb Myth that Young Americans Don’t Need Health Insurance
“I’m young and healthy and can’t afford health insurance. I’m getting off to a reasonable start but just making ends meet. If I get sick, they have to treat me in the emergency room, right? And I don’t have any assets, so there’s nothing for a hospital or doctor to take if they come after me for money.”
This attitude is foolhardy madness. Here’s why.
Illness and Injury
Young adults are not all in perfect health. They are prone to many types of injuries and accidents because they’re active.
Illness strikes young people too. Don’t take my word, just google “Cancers in Young People.”
Many young people have chronic conditions like diabetes. Some need expensive medications or have mental health issues or addiction problems.
The Emergency Room
Yes, you can always be treated in the emergency room where testing can be done and staff can stitch up what needs stitching. But what if you need surgery? Or an expensive drug? What if you are diagnosed with cancer? You could face ruinous bills and have to pay personally out of your own pocket.
I Have No Assets so There’s Nothing for the Hospital or Doctors to Take
Hospitals, physicians and other providers will often set up multi-year payment plans for those they’ve treated who are uninsured. Some of these can be akin to student loan or mortgage debt. And, if you’re uninsured, you are not protected by any insurance company’s negotiated rate or discount so you can be charged much more than someone who has insurance.
Doesn’t Obamacare Help Young Adults?
Yes and no. Obamacare eliminates pre-existing conditions as a factor in qualifying for insurance in 2014 and already allows young adults to remain on a parent’s plan to age 26. It also provides assistance for adults and families making up to 400% of the poverty level in 2014.
Unfortunately, at age 26 Obamacare may hurt those making just a little too much to qualify for help, because Obamacare mandates compression of premiums in 2014 in a way that’s likely to raise premiums for many healthy young adults in most states compared to what they would have paid in 2013.
For example, in Fairfield, Connecticut today, a 26-year-old male who qualifies for an Aetna Open Access $1500 deductible plan pays $152 per month. A 64-year-old man pays $712 per month, the difference being a multiple of 4.7 based on age. Since Obamacare mandates that the multiple can be no more than 3, it is assumed that compression will be one factor increasing premiums for younger adults. A comparable product through Aetna in New York City is $2159 per month in 2013 for everyone regardless of age or pre-existing conditions.
But I’ve read that Obamacare will Reduce Premiums by 50% in New York
Yes, you’re right. New York has a dismal track record in the individual insurance marketplace. You could always buy insurance in New York regardless of pre-existing conditions but few could afford it. What 26 year old can afford the $2159 monthly premium noted above? Premiums kept increasing because not enough healthy people bought in. New York also has community rating meaning premiums are the same regardless of age which also works against young adults.
What Advice Do You Have for Young Adults who are Uninsured?
In October, you need to begin to shop around. Determine if you qualify for assistance. Use the tools on www.healthcare.gov. If you don’t qualify for help and funds are tight, look at the lowest premium plans. But don’t remain unprotected if at all possible – even if it means asking your parents for help.
Meanwhile, get involved. Obamacare mandates that older people can only pay three times more than younger people for insurance. That’s a shift that burdens young people in most states. Let your representatives know that’s too significant a change at a time when we need healthy young people to buy insurance to make Obamacare work.