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A Look Back

Why ACA Was Needed From A Young Person’s Perspective

As we reach the one year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, it is important to remember why we fought so hard for this historic law in the first place.  What was so necessary and urgent about health care reform that it compelled ordinary Americans to take up this grueling challenge, and literally devote their lives to it?

I remember the summer of 2009, when health care reform was really heating up, and claims of “death panels” were all the rage.  My friends and I, all young students or workers, were talking about this madness and thinking, “What is going on here?”  We thought it was obvious that the old health care system was broken.

It was certainly clear to young adults.  We are the most uninsured age group in the country, over 21 million 18-34 year olds have no coverage.  I remember being uninsured for months after I graduated from college because I didn’t have a job with benefits, like so many recent graduates.  At the time I didn’t have a doctor so I paid hundreds of dollars out-of-pocket at the ER for even minor injuries or illnesses.  This is how many young people learn to avoid medical care.

Moreover, the health care system did not make sense.  When I wanted to buy a plane ticket or a textbook I could go online, compare prices, quality, etc. and be confident I was getting the best deal.  Yet why was it so difficult for me, the young consumer, to go out and compare health insurance products and get the best deal.  There didn’t seem to be any competition or transparency in the system.  And even when you got health insurance, consumers quickly learned that they were not getting fair value, that the coverage had limits if you got too sick or that an insurer could simply drop you.

And I was fortunate enough to be healthy.  If I was one of the 15% of young adults with a chronic condition, or one of the 70,000 thousand young adults diagnosed with cancer each year, the broken system meant my health and my financial future were at risk.
What’s amazing is how universal these types of stories are for young people.  Just talk to them.  These experiences are why so many young adults got involved in the health care fight and why we consistently support the health care law more than any other age group.  It’s why Young Invincibles got started to try to provide a voice for a demographic that had been ignored for too long.

The Affordable Care Act passed about one year ago and young adults are already seeing how far we have come.  Right now, young adults, whether in school or out, are be able to stay covered on their parent’s plan up to 26.  That one change is improving the lives of millions of young adults and their families, and giving them more opportunities as they face a tough economy.  There are obviously other benefits, some of which don’t take effect until 2014.  But what’s clear is that we have already taken, in one short year, a big step toward a better and more just health care system.  That is an accomplishment worth savoring.

Aaron is co-founder and Executive Director of YI.  Aaron is a native of Yonkers, New York, an honors graduate of Swarthmore College (’04), and a cum laude graduate of Georgetown University Law Center (’10). He believes strongly in the power of young Americans to change the world.