Young people my age tend not see the need to enroll in health insurance. Many of us assume that we are way too young to get sick, and that the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” was passed only to help older, sick people. The reality is that we all can get sick at any age or suffer from an accident.
A friend of mine named Emily who is the first to go to college in her family, is a prime example of the need for health insurance at our age. She currently suffers from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). It’s a chronic condition that affects a person’s digestive system. Typical symptoms include severe stomach pain, nausea, tiredness, and diarrhea. There is currently no cure for this condition, only long-term treatment. Emily lived her entire teenage years as healthy as many of us did, until IBS symptoms arose from no apparent cause at the age of 19. Physicians do not fully comprehend what caused her condition.
Her symptoms quickly escalated and followed her through college. Emily’s parents could not afford private insurance, and she did not qualify for Medicaid in the state of California at the time. Her only viable alternative was to turn to free clinics in her community, but sadly wait times and limited resources prevented her from receiving the care she needed. Emily’s condition worsened so much that she had to drop out of college. She realized that the only hope she had to see a physician was to go to Emergency Room and wait for countless hours, and sometimes even days.
After President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law in 2010, Emily was able to receive health care coverage. The ACA expanded Medicaid coverage, and she was now able to qualify for the program. Being covered under Medicaid allows Emily to receive the treatment she needs for free. Having coverage meant she was able to receive the proper exams needed to diagnose her condition, and a specialist has been able to properly treat her condition with medication. This treatment has allowed her to go back to college and continue her undergraduate studies. She was able to regain control of her life, no longer having to live with constant, debilitating pain.
Once Emily graduates from college, she may obtain quality and affordable health care coverage through her employer. There are other simple ways Emily can get covered even if her employer doesn’t provide her insurance, or if she works in a nontraditional job. Many nontraditional jobs do not provide health insurance- common examples include baristas, waitresses, retail workers, and self-employment. If that were the case Emily could still very easily obtain insurance, and the costs could be as affordable as a monthly cellphone bill thanks to a provision in Obamacare that could help her pay for health insurance. Additionally, there is another important provision in Obamacare that now prevents insurance companies from denying Emily health coverage simply because she suffered from an illness in the past.
We can all learn from Emily’s experience. Just because we are young does not make us completely immune to disease or accidents. Plus, with the passage of the ACA it’s now more easy and affordable to obtain health insurance than ever before. Today Emily is 25 and is a great example of why young adults should enroll in health insurance. She is thankful for the passage of the ACA and California’s choice to expand Medicaid access. The benefits the ACA provides are not age- restrictive, and we should all be conscious of our need to get enrolled. To learn more check out this link for an easy and interactive presentation on enrollment health.younginvincibles.org
To get covered and take advantage of all the benefits the ACA has to offer, enroll online before the February 15 deadline: www.healthcare.gov
- Jose Tapia, DFA Intern