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Roca-Pickett: Legislators should not alter coverage

Columbus Dispatch 

By: Rae Roca-Pickett

The legislature today will likely vote on House Bill 511, a measure that would lower the age at which dependent children in Ohio will be able to stay on their parents’ insurance plans from 28 to 26. That’s right, lower the age and thus reduce insurance coverage for the generation most likely to lack coverage.

Sponsor Barbara Sears, R-Toledo, said that the proposed changes would help clear up confusing differences between the Affordable Care Act and Ohio law. In reality, this bill would marginally help insurance companies and hurt young people and their families.

Reducing confusion simply does not justify cutting back on coverage for thousands of 26- and 27-year-olds. Enacting the bill would restrict choices that young people have to get covered.

I have spoken with young adults who rely on their parents’ plans for coverage, and have heard about how much this law has helped them as they go to school, look for employment and begin paying off student debt.

When I was 21, I imagined that by the time I was 27 I would have complete financial stability. Two months into my 30s, it seems funny and more than a little naïve. Many of my friends are unemployed or trying to figure out their career and educational pathways.

I cannot imagine having to worry about a chronic condition or managing through a serious injury during this period. I am so lucky that my invincibility lasted for two years until I found a job and employer-based insurance.

Today more than ever, 26- and 27-year-olds are struggling financially. The Great Recession hit our generation hard; millennials have seen double-digit unemployment. As a result, Ohioans between ages 25 and 34 are making $5,500 less today than they were earning in 2005. Furthermore, of those young adults in the state who are working, only 49 percent have full-time jobs, down from 57 percent in 2005.

The Buckeye State has been a leader in expanding coverage options. Young people can manage small differences in state and federal law — particularly when the state law is better — and state legislatures often opt to provide more than a federally mandated floor requires of them.

Legislators should vote no on House Bill 511 this week. And I hope one day, no young person ever has to live with the uncertainty of being uninsured like I did.