Health insurance attainable for Millennials
Vanessa Barajas, Staff Writer
May 23, 2012
Filed under Health & Life
Health insurance was once difficult to come by for Millennials after age 19, when young adults were removed from their parents’ plans, but several options are now available for this generation to attain health care.
The Affordable Care Act, signed by President Barack Obama, went into effect on Sept. 23, 2010, allowing children to be covered under their parents’ plans until their 26th birthday.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the ACA includes children who are not filed as dependents on a parent’s tax return, those who no longer live with the parent, and those who are not full-time students.
However, the ACA only affects insurance companies who currently offer dependent coverage, and does not require employers to offer coverage to dependents, although most do, the DOL reports.
Santa Monica College student and parent Karen Chesne is in favor of the ACA.
“We should be able to do this,” says Chesne. “[Health insurance] is really expensive, and most kids don’t make enough money to pay for their own insurance.”
Chesne has a 21-year-old daughter who works two jobs.
“[My daughter’s] job offers health insurance, but she’s currently under her dad’s insurance, and it’s cheaper, so she’d rather stay under his plan,” says Chesne.
If young adults do not have access through their parents, they can either receive health insurance through an employer, or purchase an individual policy that offers a high deductible at a lower rate.
However, 30 percent of young adults are uninsured, the highest percentage of all age groups, according to the DOL.
Many jobs do not offer benefits to people who work less than full-time, which, according to the Fair Labor Standards Act, is determined by the employer, and not directly defined by a certain number of hours.
For young adults who are full-time students trying to make ends meet by working a job, it can be difficult to obtain insurance through an employer.
“The uninsured rate among employed young adults is one-third higher than older employed adults,” according to the DOL.
Varying depending on geography, age, medical history, and other factors, prices of health insurance are not set. However, an individual can search and compare rates online using websites such as eHealthInsurance.
“It’s very important,” says Will Shanley, a spokesperson for United Health Care, referring to young adults having access to health insurance. “It’s something that when you need it, you definitely want to have it.”
According to the DOL, one out of every six young adults has a condition that needs treatment or that they might be unaware of.
“Many people think they’re very healthy because they’re young, but having health insurance coverage is very important, especially in a catastrophic event,” says Shanley.
It is commonly thought that most foodservice jobs do not offer benefits.
“United Health Care is working with the National Restaurant Association,” says Shanley. “It varies based on the individual employer. Usually the professional job [or] union job, but not always part-time or seasonal job, is offered some benefits.”
SMC student and parent Shirin K. Jam has a son, a student at Cal State Northridge, who was removed from her insurance plan when he turned 19. With the new Affordable Health Care Act, he was able to return to his parents’ plan.
“I’m happy about it because our insurance is very expensive,” says Jam.
Originally from Iran, Jam worked for the government in Europe for over ten years, which enabled her to receive health benefits at a low monthly price without paying for individual visits.
“It was very interesting for me because we have a monthly payment, and we still need to pay co-pay here,” says Jam.
According to the DOL, under the Affordable Care Act and Treasury guidance, “the value of any employer-provided health coverage for an employee’s child is excluded from the employee’s income through the end of the taxable year in which the child turns 26.”
This tax benefit is effective whether the extension of the coverage is voluntary or a requirement.
“The provision for being 26 years old or younger is a great overall strategy to improve efficient health care,” says Shanley. “If a parent works for a company that offers health benefits to dependents, it’s a very cost-effective way [for a dependent] to have coverage.”
This situation holds true for full-time SMC student Brittany Hujar, 23, who works part-time.
“My hospital visits cost about $100 per visit, co-pay is $20 per visit, and my prescriptions are $10 each. But I have emergency care and I’m fully insured,” she says.
Hujar says she does not take insurance through her job because it is cheaper to go through her dad.
“Once I get taken off my dad’s insurance [after reaching the age limit], I’ll either get insurance through the same insurance company, or go through my work, whichever is cheaper,” says Hujar.