Teddi with her parents at Lebanon Valley College Graduation
Friday, June 22, 2012
The Graduate: Teddi's Story
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When Teddi graduated from Lebanon Valley College in May of 2012, she became a member of the second graduating class to benefit from the provision in the PPACA that allows young adults to stay on their parent’s health insurance until age 26. The provision went into place September 1, 2010 and in Pennsylvania we have seen 89,000 young adults benefit and 3.1 nationwide according to the Department of Health and Human Services. This number is an increase from the 2.5 million American youth that benefited when “Health on the Horizon” presented the story of Eric, a member of the first graduating class to benefit from the provision in the PPACA.
While Eric went into the workforce and was covered by his parents plan while he searched for a job and during the 3 month “lapse of coverage” before his employer provided plan became active, Teddi’s situation is different. In the fall 2012, Teddi will be going to graduate school at Villanova where she will work on a Master’s degree in English. Her ultimate goal is to earn a PhD in English and become a college professor.
In fact, all young people, regardless of student status, marital status and state of residence are now eligible to stay on their parent’s health insurance plan until age 26 as long as they are not offered comparable coverage elsewhere (ie: employer). However, what people continue to question is why this group of individuals are singled out for this provision. A valid and very important public health question.
When Teddi is in graduate school at Villanova, she will be making $14,000 a year, enough to cover rent and living expenses. If this provision in the PPACA was not in place Teddi commented that she would not be able to afford a health insurance plan. Furthermore, she said she would most likely forgo one of her medications, pay out of pocket for the other and just chose to remain uninsured. A common scenario for many young adults.
While this may be one individual story, Teddi’s story represents a much larger demographic. The United States Department of Labor reports that young adults under 26 have the highest rate of being uninsured (over 30%), more than any other age group. According to a study done by the Commonwealth Fund, over a 3 year period of time, 62% of young adults age 19-23 reported being uninsured at one time. This is because this age group is more likely to be working part-time jobs, work in low wage jobs that do not offer health benefits, or be a student.
While some argue that this demographic is not in jeopardy because they are generally young and healthy, data shows that they do pose a reasonable amount of risk that results in leaving many young people with lofty medical debts. The Commonwealth fund states that visits to emergency rooms are more common among this age group. This age group also comprises 1/3 of all HIV diagnosis, 3.5 million pregnancies each year and this demographic has the fastest rising rate of obesity. In other words, this group that isn’t as invincible as the critics assume.
While the personal toll of access to healthcare is evident on these young people both physically and financially, there is also a larger societal cost. According to Families USA, the hidden “tax” to each taxpayer is roughly $1000 a year to cover the uncompensated care of the uninsured. It benefits all of us when the largest cohort of the uninsured is covered.
There are also other larger societal issues related to ensuring this population has access to healthcare. It is in our national interest the the youth population, our future workforce, such as Teddi, is able to meet their most basic needs. In 2010 The Georgetown University Center for Education and Workforce estimated that by 2018, 2/3 of all jobs in the US will require post-secondary education. Whereas in 1978, this number was less than 1/3 (28%). In order to compete globally, we need to be investing and ensuring the success of this population.