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Health care reform needs to consider young adults

Published: Monday, March 26, 2012

Updated: Monday, March 26, 2012 01:03

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act affects the health care of more than 30 million people — among them, students and citizens under age 26. 

Beginning today, the Supreme Court will determine if the act is unconstitutional for requiring every citizen to purchase health insurance. Regardless of the court’s final decision, it is important that young people are considered in any federal health care plans.

The consideration, led by a Florida court decision, seeks to determine whether such an all-encompassing law as the Affordable Care Act is allowed to pass without an opt-out option for states. Twenty-five other states support the lawsuit.

The act will not take full effect until 2014, but declaring the law unconstitutional could have immediate impact on many people, especially students and others who have already begun to see certain burdens eased by its implementation.

At the moment, those under the age of 26 may remain dependents on their parents’ health care, regardless of whether they are attending college or married. This protects many recent graduates, as well as those who may be taking a break from their education. It also ensures coverage for college students who otherwise may have to fend for themselves when it comes to health care, depending on their parents’ plan.

The enactment of the law allowed for more than 157,000 young adults in Florida and 2.5 million nationally to receive health care under their parents’ plans, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Overturning the Affordable Care Act would revoke these protections for recent graduates struggling in this economy to find jobs — especially full-time positions that include health care benefits.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the 18 to 26 age group is “overrepresented among the uninsured” with 28 percent without insurance in a 2009 Gallup survey. Overturning the act could place young people back in a state of uncertainty and leave many uninsured or facing challenges with their health care plan.

Repealing the act could also allow the continuing rise in health care costs, which would inevitably influence students who are balancing tuition costs with living expenses, and could prompt health insurers to cancel an individual policy if the insured individual gets sick. If students and young adults begin to take out their own health care plans, they could be dropped if they become ill or injured, adding yet another worry to an already tough situation.

Not only could consumers be charged for preventative care, such as immunizations and cancer screenings, but they could also be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions, causing an additional blow to students with disabilities or chronic conditions or illnesses.

Students who are able to afford a health care plan offered by their university could find special provisions for small health care plans, such as annual limits, eliminated.

While repealing the Affordable Care Act would certainly impact many Americans, it could weigh especially heavy on the shoulders of students and young adults who are already faced with extreme financial challenges. Regardless of whether the Affordable Care Act is ruled unconstitutional, it is important that both the federal and state governments take the responsibility to provide young people with exactly what they need right now: affordable care.

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