A new year means a new opportunity to do something meaningful. 2019 presents the new Congress with many opportunities to act on issues that young adults care about. Health care is a universal issue of interest for people – everyone wants to be healthy and strong to do the things they love. Though for too many young adults, health care is still out of reach and our current system needs improvements to work better for young adults. Young Invincibles spoke one-on-one with several young adults across the country on their personal experience with our health care system. Here are our suggestions for improving our health care system in 2019 and some stories from young adults about why these changes are necessary.
Strengthen the Affordable Care Act
The ACA is still the law of the land, and it’s still working for young people, but the new Congress should pass legislation to reverse the destructive actions of the Trump administration. Congress should focus on improving affordability for young people and reversing cuts to enrollment outreach, which helped people sign up for the ACA. These improvements can help reach the young people that haven’t yet been able to benefit from ACA yet.
“Over the years, I have been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome and anxiety, which make it harder to live a normal life. When I lived in New Jersey with my parents their health insurance alleviated several of my fears by providing access to health care to treat my health conditions. Now, I attend college in Washington, D.C., where I’m not covered. Without health insurance coverage in the city, I struggle to find affordable health care to treat my health conditions. I think it’s hard enough to juggle rigorous college courses so not receiving adequate health care treatment makes it worse.”
– Madison Watters, a political science student at George Washington University
“Health care shouldn’t be a luxury – it’s a necessity! I have to deal with several medical conditions in my life. Currently, I’m taking medication for depression, anxiety, ADHD, Thyroid issues, Vitamin D deficiency and I am also on the autism spectrum and have Asperger’s. Honestly, I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have health insurance to cover my medical expenses. I’m terrified of what will happen once I reach 26 and will be out of my parent’s plan. Due to my conditions, I can’t work a normal job and have to take fewer classes in college. I’m proud of being a non-binary guy but know that being viewed as transgender might present more challenges for me in maintaining my health insurance.” – Shepherd McKee, Student at Lone Star College-University Park
Help young adults afford coverage
Congress should introduce legislation that increases subsidies (or financial assistance) for young people to help lower premiums and out of pocket costs. This would make coverage more accessible for millions of people in the nation’s most uninsured age group.
“I know the importance of health insurance but I also have other expenses in my life including paying back loans taken out for law school. Soon I’ll be 26 and I’m afraid I won’t be able to afford health insurance once I’m kicked off my parent’s plan. Young adults like myself depend on health insurance to stay healthy but the rising costs of health insurance makes it harder for young people to afford health insurance. We need more affordable health insurance options.” – Jasmine Jordan, young adult in Houston, Texas.
“I can’t treat my asthma and eczema properly because I don’t have health insurance. For now, I get medicine only when I can afford it. Also, it’s difficult going to college with untreated conditions – when the itchiness from my eczema is so unbearable I have to leave class. It’s hard living a normal life without affordable health care to help treat my conditions.” – Aisha Pittman, a social work and health science student at Austin Community College District
Showing that Medicaid work requirements don’t work
More than 60% of young adults on Medicaid are already working, and the vast majority of others are in school, caregiving, ill, or disabled. Medicaid work requirements are unnecessary barriers to health care that will make states’ populations sicker and less able to work, not more likely to. As these work requirements get proposed on the state level, we need to push back and show why these restrictions will harm young people.
“Feeling alone when you’re pregnant is the worst feeling ever. I have had to raise my son by myself and cannot imagine what I would have done without Medicaid. Access to Medicaid has allowed me to afford the medications to treat my baby’s acid reflux when he was born. Medicaid has helped me provide the essential care my 10-month baby needs to grow up healthy and strong. Everything I do is for my son and our future – he’s my biggest motivator in finishing my CNA certificate and working hard towards walking down the stage as a G.E.D graduate. My son encourages and pushes me to do better in life.” – Katy Moreno, student parent in Austin, Texas
Letting the ACA Navigators get back to Navigating
Despite the ongoing need to ensure individuals can enroll in health insurance marketplaces, the Trump Administration cut funding for the Navigator program by 84 percent, and cut the advertising budget by 90 percent over the past two years. Legislation restoring funding for outreach and advertising would continue to ensure that consumers have the information they need, and could help those who don’t know about open enrollment and the ACA marketplace find coverage before it’s too late.
“It’s a relief to finally have health insurance. As my first time getting health insurance, the in-person helper from the navigator program made the process of enrolling for health insurance easier and less intimidating. He was able to help me apply for subsidies to make my monthly premium affordable at only $15.38 a month. As someone that attends college full time and works too, I really needed my health insurance plan to be affordable.” – Hikma Mohammed, College Student at Northern Virginia Community College
“I have been without health insurance since I was 18. Now at 21, I might be able to get affordable health insurance again through Medicaid. Had I not attended a workshop held by health insurance navigators at my college campus, I would have not known of this opportunity. My experience shows that we need more assistance and outreach for young people to help them learn about different health care opportunities available for them.”
– Victor Loza, College Student at George Mason University