|Source:||Record (Hackensack, NJ)|
One of the first provisions of federal health care reform _ allowing young adults to stay on their parents' health insurance until they turn 26 _ is expected to make a big dent in the number of uninsured young people this year.
The change will make it easier and cheaper for thousands of 20-somethings to obtain insurance _ even in states where other options have existed for several years.
Young adults like Casey Schick, 23, of Glen Rock, N.J., and Meghan Mullooley, 22, of Lyndhurst, N.J. _ who have part-time, entry-level, or unpaid jobs, if they have jobs at all _ have the lowest rates of insurance coverage of any age group.
More than 30 percent of young adults nationwide are without insurance. They earn less, on average, than those who are older, and have higher rates of unemployment. They account for about one-fifth of the nation's uninsured.
By expanding coverage to young adults until age 26, "over 1 million young adults can keep or get coverage at an affordable level," said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
The expansion is expected to increase premiums for all by less than 1 percent, Sebelius said.
In states that have enacted a similar law, such as New Jersey, the impact will probably be less dramatic. But in most cases, the federal law will reduce the cost to parents to insure their grown children _ because they won't have to buy individual policies for them, for example _ and get those kids better coverage.
"If we do have insurance, it's often not very good insurance," said Aaron Smith, 28, who co-founded Young Invincibles, an advocacy group for young adults in the reform debate, last year. "You hear of kids going to the ER and ending up with hundreds of thousands of dollars of bills."
Smith graduated from Georgetown University Law School last month. As he heard stories of young people around the country, he found that work and life decisions were often influenced by the availability of health insurance.
Across the country, some plans force young people off their parents' plans when they turn a certain age, usually from 19 to 23. Or coverage may continue through the college years, but end abruptly upon graduation. College students covered by student policies can find their coverage runs out before their needs do; unluckiest are those who develop cancer or another serious illness and subsequently can't get affordable coverage. Fifteen percent of people ages 18 to 34 suffer chronic illnesses, including 180,000 young adults in New Jersey with asthma, and more than 40,000 with diabetes.
One young woman who graduated from Montclair State University last month has had eight operations to correct malformations on the side of her face caused by a rare congenital condition, diagnosed in her teens. The 22-year-old Little Falls, N.J., resident has a part-time job while she looks for full-time work, and is on her parents' health plan. She asked that her name not be used.
To her, the passage of health care reform was a tremendous relief.
"If I don't have consistent surgeries, it will grow into something physically deforming," she said of her condition, arteriovenous malformation. Abnormal connections between blood vessels are found on her cheek, temple and neck. She visits a specialist a few times a year for monitoring.
The young-adult extension is one of the most popular aspects of the Affordable Care Act reforms that squeaked through Congress in March. "That's the biggest thing that people talk about," when he meets constituents around his district, said U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., at a health-reform conference recently. The Obama administration, hoping to earn some early public support for health reform, has encouraged insurers to move up the rollout date so this year's graduates won't fall off insurance rolls.