Most young adults are mature enough to know they’re not invincible.
Cars crash, steps ice up unexpectedly and everyone can get the flu. As long as there are misfortunes in life, we’re all better off with insurance, no matter how young and strong we are.
Besides, health insurance is for more than emergencies. When you know you can afford care, you tend to get regular checkups, catch problems earlier and, in general, lead a healthier life.
Those are two personal, practical reasons for young Americans to sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. Another reason should resonate with a younger generation that’s increasingly engaged in public life and concerned about the plight of others.
Insurance works by spreading risk. But under reform, health insurers are no longer allowed to manage their risk by denying coverage to applicants with pre-existing conditions.
So universal health insurance can only succeed if everyone — young and old, healthy and sick — is in the system. Otherwise, only the sick will sign up, costs and premiums will skyrocket and the whole system will collapse.
Moral of the story: Every young, healthy person should get covered who feels sympathy for the millions of uninsured who aren’t young and healthy.
In fact, the goal of universal health coverage has a practical basis as well. Our economy and society are stronger when everyone is healthier: fewer absences from school and work, lower health-care costs, a more vibrant nation. Younger people who want their nation to succeed should do their part in making the ACA a success.
The rollout of the HealthCare.gov website was admittedly a disaster, and younger, healthier visitors were probably the first to give up on the faulty system.
Desperate, uninsured Americans with health problems undoubtedly kept on trying. But now that the site is working better, young America should return and sign up. They should also join in a public defense of the ACA against its unrelenting and opportunistic opponents.
Passage of health-care reform was the biggest advance in social justice in 40 years. Martin Luther King Jr. called “injustice in health care … the most shocking and inhuman” form of social inequality. A Harvard Medical School study published just months before the ACA became law determined 45,000 Americans died each year for lack of health insurance.
In the less than four years since it was enacted, the ACA has already improved millions of lives.
As noted, people with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied insurance. Yearly and lifetime caps on benefits have been removed. Young adults can stay on their parents insurance up to age 26. Prescription drugs are more affordable for seniors. And now that the insurance exchanges are working better, millions more will finally find the peace of mind that comes with being adequately insured at a reasonable cost.
William Rice is a policy consultant with Americans for Democratic Action, a liberal advocacy organization.