HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today released a new report, Young Americans and Health Insurance Reform: Giving Young Americans the Security and Stability They Need. The report highlights the vulnerability young adults face in the current health care system and the urgent need for health insurance reform. The complete report is available at www.healthreform.gov.
"More and more young adults wake up the day after their nineteenth birthday or on graduation day and find themselves uninsured," said Secretary Sebelius. "I've seen this problem first-hand. When my son graduated, he faced the challenge of finding health insurance. Unfortunately, too many of his peers are forced to go without the care they need. Health insurance reform will help insure young Americans have access to the affordable health care they need and deserve."
While seventeen percent of adults (those aged 30-64) are uninsured, thirty percent of young adults do not have health insurance. When young adults lose access to their parents' health insurance, they find it increasingly difficult to afford the high cost of health insurance.
Young adults are often less likely to work for employers who offer health insurance benefits. Nearly half of young people work part-time, and part-time workers are less likely to be offered coverage. Young people are also more likely to work for smaller firms, which tend to offer less coverage. Among young adults working in firms of fewer than 50 employees and who had coverage in 2006, one in four lost that insurance in the following two years - more than twice the rate of older adults.
The report also shows that 33 states allowed insurance companies to charge unrestricted premiums based on age, health status and even gender. In some states, a 22-year-old woman can be charged twice as much for her premium than a 22-year-old man.
The health care status quo is significantly impacting young Americans. In a recent survey, two-thirds who had gaps in healthcare admitted to forsaking health care because of costs including skipping recommended tests and treatment and neglecting to fill a prescription. Even with cost-saving measures, more than one-third of all young adults with coverage report having problems paying medical bills.
Health insurance reform would ensure young adults have access to quality, affordable health coverage, deter mounting health problems and ensure young people are not left with crushing medical debt after an accident or illness. Capping out-of-pocket expenses, co-pays and
deductibles while limiting arbitrary premium increases would provide affordable health care options for young adults as well.
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