Newsweek on young people's health insurance

MedSave Admin | July 5, 2008

Shaun Randol, a college student and part-time waiter, is trying to cure his anxiety disorder himself, without doctor visits or medicine. And he's been nursing an on-and-off toothache for about two years. Randol has put off seeing doctors since he turned 21, when he got bumped from his parents' health-insurance policy. "It's kind of scary. I can't afford it," he says.

If the United States has a health-insurance crisis, its youth is facing a calamity. Roughly one in three young adults, 19 to 29, lack coverage because they finished going to school or because they're just too old to stay under Mom and Dad's plan. That's more than double the rate of everybody else, reports the Commonwealth Fund, a foundation that funds research on health issues.


Health care reform advocates increasingly point to this situation as a failure of our current health care delivery system. Yet the larger issue of human behavior that provides a more plausible explanation is largely ignored by the media. The fact is that young people do many things differently than their parents and the older generation would prefer. Health insurance is a perfect example. We wish al young people would budget $100 a month for health insurance before allocating money to other expenses. But they don't. Most people in this age group spend more of their discretionary money on social activities, clothes and entertainment than on their health care. Many ignore health insurance completely despite the growing number of low cost insurance plans that are geared toward young adults.

A solution seems obvious. If we are really serious about making sure that young people are insured, then health should be required by law just like automobile insurance. The insurance is widely available and particularly affordable to this age group. But unless insurance is required, the numbers of uninsured young people will continue to bother some of us. In the absence of a legal requirement, a growing number of young people seem content to wait until someone else provides them with a health insurance solution rather than take corrective action themselves.

Recent polls show that Americans do not want to be required to carry health insurance. Young people consistently say that health insurance is not a high priority for them. It seems time for us to 'move on' and accept this situation as a natural result of human behavior instead of holding it up as a failure of our national health care delivery system.

In any event, there is no logical reason that the lack of insurance among young people should be used as evidence of a need for national health care policy reform.

Tags : student insurance

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