Health Care Reform

New report – One-Third of Young Adults Lack Health Care

WASHINGTON–(ENEWSPF)–November 18, 2009.  The future of the country lies in the hands of its young people. Yet today, more than 1/3 of America’s youth – aged 19-29 – lacks health care.

Often dismissed as the “young invincibles” who don’t worry about health care, a new study from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group exposes a much different story.

Uncovered: How the America’s Health Care Fails Young People paints a troubling picture of the uncertain reality faced by the country’s largest uninsured demographic and calls for reform of the health care system.

“This is a problem that affects a huge number of students’ said Sophia Fishbane, a Rutgers University junior, and the Campaign Coordinator for NJPIRG Student Chapter’s Affordable Health Care Campaign.

According to the Uncovered, Americans aged 18-24 are the most likely group in the country to lack health insurance, with 20 percent of college students aged 18-23 going uninsured.  Once a student graduates, the number of uninsured spike: among the new graduate demographic, those aged 23 to 24, an eye-popping 38% are uninsured, due in large part to insurers’ practice of dropping young people from their parents’ plans once they graduate.

“The impact of lacking health care coverage can be dire for a young person,” said U.S. Public Interest Research Group Health Care Advocate Larry McNeely. “If you get sick, you’ll have a hard time staying out of debt and staying in school.”

The report finds that two thirds of uninsured young people go without necessary medical care because of cost and also notes that medical debt among young people often winds up on a credit card: 18-34 year olds who paid for medical care with a credit card have an average balance of over $13,000. Medical debt is a leading cause of students dropping out of college.

In the workforce young people also face obstacles to coverage, according to Uncovered.

“Young workers typically have to deal with temporary or lower paid jobs, high job turnover, periods of unemployment and employers who are much less likely to offer health benefits, all of which make it far less likely that they will be able to maintain health coverage,” said McNeely. “It’s not that young people care less about health care, it’s that every part of our system makes it harder for them to get the care they need.”

“The bottom line is that our system is failing a whole generation’ said Fishbane. “It doesn’t make sense – we can do better.”

Uncovered also makes suggestions for reform, including allowing young people to remain on their parents’ plans for longer, and creating insurance exchanges and a public health insurance option to give young people more choices to access affordable quality coverage.

Download a PDF of the report here.