That’s what a lot of young adults and employers used to think, which is why 1/3 of young adults were uninsured until 2010, the largest proportion of uninsured for any age group. As someone who is currently in this age group, I find the lack of coverage scary. This means that we were at higher risk for huge medical bills when we were working hard to pay off student loans or just trying to make ends meet living on our own for the first time. Just because we are young doesn’t mean accidents can’t happen or we can’t get sick: a distracted driver could hit us on the road, we could get hurt at work, or catch something from friends or co-workers. If we get really hurt or sick, the median hospital cost per person in 2008 was $18,142, and I don’t know about you but I certainly don’t have that much money lying around (http://www.facethefactsusa.org/facts/hospital-costs-nearly-double-in-decade/).
Some good news is that if your parents are insured, you can stay on their policy until you turn 26. This is because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the health reform law passed in 2010. But what if your parents aren’t insured? Or if you are over 26? Why should you spend your money on health insurance you might not need? There are many reasons, but I’ll highlight two.
First, it will likely save you money. The ACA made insurance companies cover a lot of preventive services for free, like well-visits and flu shots. As someone who did a lot of babysitting during school, I will tell you that a flu shot is a very important thing to have because I caught everything from those kids! Also, ladies, insurance companies are now required to cover birth control for free. That means it will cost you absolutely nothing to fill your prescription, or get an IUD or a hormonal implant.
Second, it will keep you healthier for longer because you won’t have to worry about being able to afford a doctor. You will have access to preventive care which means you can have regular conversations with the same doctor about any health concerns that you have, and you won’t have to worry about being able to afford a prescription or doctor’s visit when you are sick. If you have always had insurance, then this may not seem like a big deal, but it is. Not being able to see a primary care doctor on a regular basis means that conditions could go undiagnosed and untreated, which makes your health outcomes worse. If you get sick and don’t have insurance, you would potentially have to pay full price at an urgent care center for a strep throat diagnosis, and then full price for the prescription, which means you could pay over $100 for something that could have cost you $20 with insurance. Having to pay this much money would likely discourage you from going to get an illness checked out, meaning you would get sicker, miss more work, and it would cost more money to get better. Not an ideal situation if you are living paycheck to paycheck or trying to put some money away for a future purchase.
If your parents are uninsured or you are over 26, you don’t get insurance through work, and you make more than $15,000 a year, there is a health insurance option coming your way in October. This fall begins the enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace, an online marketplace for you to buy health insurance on your own. You simply fill out a three-page application, you are guaranteed approval, and you would get money from the government to decrease your premium if you make less than $45,000 per year. There is even a super cheap plan only for people under 30 (doesn’t cover much, but really cheap). The whole process will probably take you less than 10 minutes, and you will have health insurance. This means that if you get sick or get hurt, your biggest concern will be getting better, not how you will pay your bills. For some more information, check out our Young Adults fact sheet or www.healthcare.gov.