A new study from the Commonwealth Fund found that one-third of young adults ages 19-29 were struggling with medical bills or debt. The study also found that about 40% of young adults did not have health insurance at some point in 2011. While the stats aren’t really surprising, it’s becoming more and more clear that young people need to make healthcare a priority, stat.
Several of my own peers rationalize having little or no health coverage by saying, “I’m young, so I’m healthy!” or “I can’t afford it, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed nothing goes wrong.” With chronic health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure and other conditions being diagnosed at younger and younger ages, simply going without regular checkups or basic healthcare is treading into seriously dangerous territory. Dr. Jeffrey Hausfeld, who owns a collection agency that specializes in medical debt, said:
Getting sick isn’t something that a healthy 26-year-old expected to have to pay for. They didn’t budget for it. Now they’re sitting with a $10,000 hospital bill and they don’t know what to do.
With unemployment rates for young people at an all-time high, record numbers of them are going without health insurance. And even though the Affordable Care Act has made it possible for a lot of young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance for longer periods of time, the law is still leaving out lots of people who desperately need and want affordable healthcare. Commonwealth Fund Vice President Sara Collins agrees:
While the Affordable Care Act has already provided a new source of coverage for millions of young adults at risk of being uninsured, more help is needed for those left behind.
Especially because young people with debt are forgoing other basic necessities in order to pay for medical care: 31% of people surveyed said they delayed education or career plans because of their medical debt, and 28% said they couldn’t pay for rent or food.
I only have catastrophic health insurance myself: no dental or vision, and my insurance doesn’t cover my birth control, either. Not to mention preventative medicine: I’m just hoping some of the recent moles that have cropped up on my skin aren’t cancerous, because I can’t afford a dermatologist visit to know for sure. I also have a pretty bad wisdom teeth situation going on (combined with the fact that I haven’t been to a dentist in quite a few years) so I’m looking into other, low-cost options: dental schools, clinics at my local community college. It’s that or wait until the problem gets worse and the costs rise, and I’m really hoping to avoid the debt situation so many others in my age group have found themselves in.