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Young, healthy and essential
For Obamacare to work, will emerging adults buy in?
Published Sunday, December 22, 2013 10:03 am
by Jennifer Brown, For The Charlotte Post

The Affordable Care Act, health insurance reform, healthcare reform, and Obamacare – all are nicknames for The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that went into effect in 2010. But none make the over 1,000-page federal law easier to understand.

One of the provisions of the ACA is that young adults may stay on their parent’s insurance plan up to age 26, but who is say that when their 27th birthday rolls around, they will suddenly understand all there is to know about health insurance and the ACA?

Keith Benson, an associate professor of management at Winthrop University, teaches an intro level health management course. He said the ACA has little application to most college students at the moment, but understanding it now could be the key to its success later.

“If you talk to most of your peers, they don’t understand the basics of this,” Benson said. “It’s going to be up to you guys to figure it out.”

The lack of understanding poses a problem, though. According to Benson, the key to the ACA’s success lays in the hands of adults ages 26-35. College students will soon face this responsibility, yet many don’t completely understand it.

Lacey Thompson, a 2013 Winthrop graduate, said being able to stay on her parents’ insurance until she turns 26 is a plus because it gives her time to prepare and get settled, but it is also an impediment to understanding the new law.

“I do think staying on my parents’ insurance deters me from learning about the ACA because they deal with my insurance, not me,” Thompson said. “I don’t think the ACA discourages responsibility and accountability, but I do think it gives young adults a reason to not educate themselves.”

Business administration major Adarrell Gadsden said he believes that lack of interest in laws and policymaking could be the key reason for college-age students not taking the time to learn and educate themselves about what the ACA entails.

“I think that young adults are always going to be the last ones to take time to sit down and try to understand the ends and outs of the law,” he said. “I think right now just a basic understanding of the law is acceptable. You don’t have to be an expert, and I’m not.”

Benson said young adults need to be aware the mandate requires every to have health insurance. They can’t be forced to acquire it, but there will be a consequence for not buying in.

“The mandate says you’ve got to have health insurance or you’ve got to pay a penalty,” Benson said. “(Students) don’t think they need insurance, but for the Affordable Care Act to work, they’ve got to have that big base. That’s why the mandate is the essential part.”

The media, in referring to the ACA, often label young adults as “young invincibles,” which refers to the notion that young people, between ages 18 to 35, feel that they do not need health insurance because they are healthy. 

According to Benson, young invincibles are crucial to keeping insurance premiums down, and pool, or share, the risk.

Young adults “are the key to this whole thing working,” he said. “Why?  If you’re paying the premium, and you’re not using it, you’re paying for people like me to get sick. You’ve got to have that pooling of risk for the insurance to work.”

Senior integrated marketing communication major Ana Montjoy understands that young adults and the mandate are necessary aspects of the ACA, but her feelings are mixed.

“I agree we need to have access to preventative care, but I don’t think we should be forced into anything if it isn’t what we want to do,” Montjoy said. “I believe young people are needed in the ACA, or it won’t work. I believe the ACA wants to attract young adults because we are typically healthy and can offset the expenses of other less healthy Americans.”

Gadsden said he thinks the wake-up call for young adults will be when they are faced with sanctions if they opt out of purchasing health insurance.

“As a young adult, I’d like for all young adults to understand the ACA, but once penalties go into effect, I think we’ll see a lot more of these young adults pay attention,” he said.

However, Benson said knowing the key issues are a good starting point.

“These are the big three issues we’ve had, we will have and we will continue to have: cost, quality and access. That’s an interactive relationship,” Benson said. “If I go to improve quality, it’s going to cost more. If I increase access, it’s going to cost more, so, you can’t affect one without affecting the other two.”

Although the ACA is difficult to comprehend, Benson’s advice is education and sharing knowledge with others.

“What I’m hoping is (young adults) start spreading the word and start helping people understand,” he said. “Look at the facts, keep the politics out of it. Is this going to help more people or is this going to harm more people? Dig deep and look at the facts.”

Jennifer Brown is a senior journalism major at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and copy editor at The Johnsonian, Winthrop’s student newspaper.      

Also in this series: Mandate sparks confusion and resentment 

Online exchange program posed obstacles


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