Health Care Reform: New Options for Young People

Health Care Reform: New Options for Young People

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Editor's Note: This week, some of the latest health care reform laws passed by the U.S. Congress and the Obama administration came into effect, which give many young people the chance to get proper medical coverage. Donny Lumpkin spoke to some young people who will benefit greatly from the latest reforms, and some who think staying healthy is all the medical coverage you need. Donny Lumpkins is a senior content producer for YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia. Malcolm Marshall contributed to this report.
 
Recently, Congress and the Obama administration passed health care reform that could expand coverage to 32 million Americans who are uninsured. Up to two million young people who are uninsured will benefit from the reform that will allow people to say on their parent’s health insurance until their 26th birthday.

The healthcare reform law is undoubtedly a landmark in American history, but it’s too early to release the red, white, and blue streamers. Some young people are excited about the new law, but still skeptical about health insurance, and believe that if they can take care of themselves they can avoid health problems to begin with. 
23-year-old Avery Kirkland, a Berkeley resident, is insured through his mother’s insurance.

“I'm excited about the idea of it (heath care benefits for young people) yes.  But does that mean dumping billions of dollars into something that might not work?”
Kirkland says he’s all for healthcare reform, but he thinks people can do things in their own lives to stay healthy.

“I'm for health care reform in the sense of people reforming their own lives and getting their own shit together, so they don’t have to rely so much on a system where you have to pay insurance for drugs and remedies [to treat conditions] that we might be able to prevent altogether in the first place,” he says.

Kirkland says he’s never had to buy his own insurance before and even though he’s covered through his mother, he says he rarely has to use it. He goes to the doctor and dentist once a year.
“I’ve never had any health crisis where I needed unusual medical attention.”
Kirkland says he’s not really sure what he’s going to do when he’s no longer covered under his mother’s insurance.

“I try to live a minimalist lifestyle, so I might try to put that off or get some real basic coverage,’ he says. “I plan to keep myself in good health. At the same time you never know what can happen.”
 
Berkeley-resident Alice Cockram, 17, says she thinks keeping yourself healthy is way more important than getting insurance.  She says she rarely thinks about health care. She tries to do her best to keep herself healthy, so she won’t have to worry about it in the future.

“Health coverage doesn't mean that much to me. I don't have it.  I'm vegan and eat raw foods. I'm very strict about my lifestyle and my health and the way I take things in. When I get sick, I eat some ginger or garlic, rest and get better. I go to clinics occasionally when I really need something that the universe can't provide for me.”

Cockram says she became a vegan mostly for health reasons. She added: “It’s been proven that how you eat is how you live.”

Keith Anderson, 24, and Harris Cox, 19, who both live in San Francisco are among the people who stand to benefit from the new healthcare reform law. They are two young black men who had lost coverage under their parents’ insurance when they reached a certain age. Anderson and Cox, who are both fathers, are now eligible to remain on their parents’ healthcare plans until they are 26.

“I do feel very vulnerable, I mean, you don’t know what tomorrow is gonna bring -- you know. And I have children now. And I just want that reassurance that I will be taken care of when something does happen.” said anderson 

Anderson says  he pays for his kid's health insurance, but it can get expensive. Cox says when he was uninsured he did his best to keep himself healthy.

“I try to take care of myself. I try to eat more and be healthy. I take iron pills and things like that to cope with the weather. I have a son, and I try to make sure he stays healthy too.”

They both say that having kids changed the way they think about their own health. Now, they both have other people depending on them, so they have to be more careful about what they do and get into. Anderson says if he could get health insurance through his job he would, even if that meant paying out of pocket He called it “money well spent” and a “good back up plan”. Cox on the other hand would be a little more hesitant. But he still understands the bigger picture.

“I would like to have that money, but at the same time I would like to be healthy for my son’s sake so I can be there to take care of him,” Cox said.

Alex Pinegas, 22, who lives in Berkley, was insured as a college student. After college, though, he lost the coverage. Pinegas says he knows how important health insurance is, because it was there for him when he really needed it.
 
“When I was in college I had really bad tonsillitis. It was so bad that my throat almost swelled shut. I had to go to the emergency room where they gave me steroids and painkillers. There is no way I would have been able to afford that if I didn't have insurance.”
 
There was another instance when Pinegas had such a severe case of food poisoning that he had to go to the [student health center] to get an IV drip to re-hydrate. He says he’s excited about the health care reform law, but he says he still thinks our neighbors up North have the better system.
 
“I think the way it went was not perfect. I think a single payer system like Canada's would have been better,” said Pinegas.

By 2014, everyone must have health coverage or face a fine, which makes me wonder if making health insurance mandatory by law is the right way to get everyone covered.

I’m 20-something, and perceived invincibility comes with the territory. It sort of feels like this is the only time in my life where I can be reckless and take my body for granted. Plus, having even more money taken out of my paycheck each week can be equally as crippling as a broken arm or leg.

For me, my biggest concerns don’t have anything to do with health insurance or my health, and everything to do with money and convenience. I guess it reinforces the perception that young people only think about the short term. But who can you blame us? The economy is in the tank, and most of us are having a hard time finding jobs and getting into school. Health care may not be at the forefront for everyone, but at least now, young adults who want coverage can get it.