Rumeisha Bowyer and, seated, her mother Deanna Bressler-Montgomery. Photo courtesy of Deanna Bressler-Montgomery
LOS ANGELES -- Motivated, and armed with an architectural degree, Rumeisha Bowyer set out to obtain employment in her field, with health care benefits thrown in.
Two years and several full- and part-time jobs later, however, the 24-year-old is still searching for both.
“It’s very frustrating because I know I’m very, very educated but nothing’s happening at the moment,” Bowyer noted. “And health care is very important because if I get really, really sick, I won’t be able to afford my own health insurance.”
Bowyer’s mother, Deanna Bressler-Montgomery, is grateful that her daughter still has access to health care, thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), comprehensive health care reform signed into law by President Obama in March 2010. ACA will allow Bowyer to remain on her mother’s health care insurance plan until she turns 26.
Prior to the ACA, Bowyer, who is minimally obese, has asthma and eczema, would have aged out of her mother’s health insurance plan a lot sooner. Parents could only cover their children until they turned 19, unless they were disabled; or up to their 24th birthday if they were enrolled in college full time.
Under the ACA, young adults can remain on their parents’ plan up to age 26, even if they are out of school, married or living on their own, if they cannot get health insurance through an employer.
Now, Bowyer can continue receiving medications and treatment for her health problems, as well as preventive care services, like the kickboxing and nutrition classes she currently attends.
“The weight training class is very beneficial because I’ve been struggling with weight for years. They offer free programs with the health insurance I have. If I didn’t have it, I would have to pay for a gym membership or do the basic run around the block, run around the corner, or run around the park,” Bowyer explained.
Scheduling time for such activities during safe, daylight hours is challenging because she works two part-time jobs, the incomes from which don’t add up to even $1,000 a month. Still, Bowyer is saving the money she earns working her part-time jobs so she can start paying for her own insurance when she turns 26 and is dropped from her mother’s plan. Meanwhile, she continues to search for a job with benefits that will kick in before then, she said.
According to the Center for Consumer I n f o r m a t i o n and Insurance O v e r s i g h t, an arm of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and a part of the Department of Health and Human Services,prior to the ACA, 42 percent of young adults switched or lost coverage once they graduated. In addition, 76 percent who were then uninsured did not get needed medical care.
“The Affordable Care Act requires plans and issuers that offer dependent coverage to make the
coverage available until the adult child reaches the age of 26. Many parents and their children who worried about losing health insurance after they graduated from college no longer have to worry,” explains the center on its website.
In California, 435,000 young adults gained insurance coverage as of December 2011 due to the health care law, according to the National Health Interview Survey, a data collection program of the National Center for Health Statistics. Nationally, the provision has allowed 3.1 million young adults to get health coverage.
“The ACA has meant my family saves money because I couldn’t afford to pay the $500 a month for her
insurance. I can at least try to afford the 10 percent and not go into debt. It’s better than paying the whole thing,” Bressler-Montgomery said.
For Bowyer, being able to stay on her mother’s health insurance plan has meant being able to buy asthma medication and keeping the disease under control. The 30-day supply of medication needed for her skin condition costs more than $100, and even with the $10 co-pay the family is able to cope, noted Bressler-Montgomery. She said she shudders to think of how much they would have had to pay out of pocket for Bowyer’s treatment had the young woman not been able to stay on her health insurance plan.
“I don’t like the fact that (some people) call it ‘Obamacare,’’ she said. “I think it’s negative but if they want to call it that, that’s okay. It’s the best care they can get right now.”
(This article was made possible by a New America Media fellowship sponsored by The California Endowment.)
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