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Young Workers BENEFIT from Health Reform

So earlier today I read an article in the U.S. News & World Report titled, “How Healthcare Reform Could Get You Hired.” It was a fairly enlightening article speaking to the fact that many older American have limited employment choices because of their health care requirements and are more likely to take a job if it provides health insurance coverage. The author Liz Wolgemuth, argued that if health reform finally comes to pass more baby boomers who are in the work force would likely have a larger field of options for employment since they could now afford coverage on their own through an affordable public option. While I found this interesting I was more interested in the comment left by “ELF of NC,” titled “Young Workers Hurt By Health Reform, which read:

“Maybe health reform could help older workers get hired but stop to consider that they have simply taken a job from someone else (a younger worker). There you have it, more unintended consequence from within this morass call health reform. First mandating and burdening young people with expensive health insurance they are overcharged for (because of community rating), and which they are unlikely to use. Then the law advantages the hiring of older workers.”

Now,  I will admit some of his claims are valid like the fact that young people will bear a larger increase of of healthcare costs in order to balance out a pool of insured individuals that are charged enormous rates because of pre-existing conditions & age. But, what he/she failed to mention is that this already occurs in large employee pools of employer subsidized insurance coverage. In fact employers like hiring younger workers just to bring down the costs of insurance for their business & employees. Below was my immediate response to this comment – titled “Young Workers BENEFIT from Health Reform:”

“In Massachusetts we already have health care reform, which mandates that all residents have some form of health insurance coverage. Young people under the age of 26 who do not have health insurance through their employers are offered Young Adult Plans (YAP) which offer basic preventative & emergency care at more affordable rates. If you are over 26 and fall within a certain wage bracket you qualify for ‘Commonwealth Care’ another subsidized insurance option.

The rest of the country is not as lucky. The demographic with the most uninsured are young people between the ages of 18-35. This is mainly because we cannot typically afford health insurance unless it is subsidized by our employer or the government. Some of us think we are invincible – so when we have to go into the emergency room or find out that at 28 yrs old we have cancer, its a shock.

That being said the majority of young people are extremely healthy and those of us who have health insurance bring down the costs for other residents who are insured. So in fact we do help older generations who rates are higher because of age & pre-existing conditions. But, when we don’t have insurance we are subject to the extremely high costs of care in emergency rooms and routine doctors visits. I once got charged $1,400 for going to the Emergency Room to get a Pink Eye medication prescription (luckily I was insured). Why are emergency room costs so high you might ask? Well that would be because of the number of uninsured individuals who seek care at hospitals and are unable to pay.

By remaining uninsured young people are only creating higher costs for themselves, but by becoming insured we help ourselves and others in our communities by bringing down the cost of health care.

And to quickly respond to the assumption that giving jobs to older workers takes jobs away from younger people. Think hard buddy . . . they had those jobs first. Its us coming in taking the jobs from them. The issue is older workers are less likely to retire now because of high health insurance costs and until they turn 65, they can’t qualify for Medicare. Therefore they rely on employer sponsored insurance or their weekly paychecks to pay for high insurance rates. Right now the job market is extremely competitive with 1 job for every 5 people who are unemployed. Its every person for themselves – age isn’t the biggest factor.”


Full disclosure though, since I spoke so highly in my comment about the MA Health Insurance Reform System: I am currently counted among the many uninsured. When I knew I would be leaving my job with the State of MA I immediately looked into a “Young Adult Plan” on the MA Health Connector website as an affordable option, since I had used it between jobs in 2007. At that time I was paying $80/mo for a plan with prescription drug coverage. This time when I looked at similar plans, the lowest plan without prescription drug coverage was $150/mo and the equivalent to the plan I had in 2007 was now $178/mo (the highest was well over $500/mo). This is a serious problem! For the cost of these plans to more than double over a two year period is outrageous. Something needs to be done by the MA Health Connector to curtail and control these rising costs.

When I realized a Youth Plan was no longer an option I turned to the Commonwealth Care program. Since I am no longer employed and have no monthly income I figured that I definitely qualified for State Subsidized health insurance. I applied 2 months before my health coverage with the state would run out at the beginning of June 2009 and included all the required paperwork including a note from HR stating that my employment would be terminated as of  “so&so date” and that my insurance would end on “this date.”

It is now October 2009, over 5 months later and I still do not have health insurance coverage. Even though I am abroad I was told by Fulbright that it is necessary to maintain health coverage at home and as a resident of Massachusetts I am required to have health insurance by state law or else I will face a penalty on my 2009 Tax Returns. So currently, the new system has failed me – as I am sure it has failed many others who are currently unemployed.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Also, I’ve included links to 2 NYTimes articles/oped that I found to be fairly interesting regarding both Health Reform & The Job Crisis.

Health Insurance Exchanges: Will They Work? – NYTimes – Reed Abelson

Does Obama Get It? – NYTimes Oped – Bob Herbert

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