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Diane Mufson: Young adults need good health care insurance

Jul. 23, 2013 @ 11:04 PM

The Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is slowly but surely arriving in our country. Despite 38 Republican efforts to overturn this legislation, the United States is on its way to join other developed nations that make sure that all citizens have health care insurance and access to decent health care.

Some parts of this legislation are already in place and are dearly loved by those who benefit from it. There is no retreating from permitting children up to age 26 to remain on their parents’ health policies.

To make the ACA financially viable, healthy young adults need to partake in the plan. While some young people believe that they do not need health insurance, this is clearly not the case.

Young adults do not need health insurance solely to financially balance the program; they need it as a personal financial safety net. Many of us know a person under 35 years of age who was the picture of health on one day and then desperately needed medical attention the next. The trauma and duration of unexpected expenses sometimes exceeds the actual medical problem.

A significant number of young adults’ health problems are related to motor vehicle accidents, which some say is not really a “health” issue.  Health insurance companies look at medical services used to determine payment, not the cause. In health insurance parlance, a broken leg is a broken leg regardless of whether it resulted from a car accident, football game or a fall from a balcony.

Young adults who often feel invincible (didn’t most of us in our youth?) find that diseases and illnesses that are only supposed to befall “old” people now affect them or their friends. Obesity and diabetes II, once infrequent among young adults, are now common among all age groups.

Mental health problems are not restricted to mature adults. Many young people are affected by depression; more serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, typically make their appearances in young adulthood.

Cancer, while less common in young adults, does occur and without health insurance treatment may be delayed or cause financial ruin. I sadly recall a young woman who worked two hourly jobs without health insurance. Unpaid bills for a mastectomy resulted in her losing her small house.

Common sense says everyone needs health insurance, not because there is any guarantee that a person will become sick, but because there is a chance of that happening and, if it does, the associated costs can be devastating.

All law-abiding people in this state carry motor vehicle insurance. Why? Because, it is required; of course, it is also wise. My husband and I have been fortunate. Other than the “deer incident,” we’ve had only one auto claim (due to an uninsured driver without a valid driver’s license) in over a half-century. Yet, even if it were not required, we know it is prudent to carry motor vehicle insurance.

Health care costs money. In the real world there is no free lunch and no free health care. With the exception of those at the extreme poverty level, we all should have to pay something for our health care. Medicare is not free; monthly assessments come out of Social Security payments. For those who are uninsured today and receive medical care, the insured among us are the “responsible parties.”

Other developed nations have figured out how to manage health care for their entire population.  We, too, must do that. In doing so, young adults must be convinced that they truly need health care insurance for their own well-being.

Diane W. Mufson is a retired psychologist. She is a former citizen member of The Herald-Dispatch editorial board and a regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch editorial page. Her email is dwmufson@comcast.net.

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