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Healthcare for young adults

There are several options available to maximize the chance for children to be included in a health plan. Employer-provided plans routinely offer cover for family members and adding children to private plans is relatively inexpensive. For those families with low incomes who cannot afford cover, there are federal and state funds available to pay for basic cover. But all these options disappear when the child becomes an adult. This is the magic time everyone used to look forward to. Finally, the law recognizes people are old enough to take responsibility for their own actions and removes the built-in protections. Except, of course, these new adults are either still in full-time education or joining the group with the highest unemployment rate in the country. For young adults going through college and university, this is the time when debts are really starting to mount up. Tuition fees and living costs take years to pay off. Adding in the cost of a health plan is often the straw that breaks the camel's back. Even though all the better colleges and universities offer good value group insurance, this is one additional cost too many. Younger people take the rational view. They have good heath and statistics on their side - the statistics show the vast majority of people enjoy good health during the prime of their lives. The main risks come from accidental injuries with many hit with big bills following traffic accidents. So most young people put off the decision on buying into a health plan and hope their parents will solve the problem for them.

This calculation may be about to change. The insurance industry applies a simple formula to set premium rates. It guesses how much it is going to pay out over the next twelve months, adds its operating costs and a profit margin, and then divides this total among all the people holding a policy, i.e. everyone in the group pays a more-or-less equal share. Because millions of young adults opt out, the cost of medical treatment falls unevenly on older people and those with existing medical conditions. The premium rates for everyone would fall if the cost of the nation's medical bills was divided between all adults. That's why the legislation working its way through the House and Congress includes proposals to make holding an insurance policy mandatory or to fine people who do not have a health plan. This is a form of single payer program because it matches the idea that all the employed should contribute a percentage of their earnings toward universal health coverage.

Health insurance is the big political hot potato right now. But, if medical costs are to be controlled and everyone is to pay only a fair amount for insurance, some changes will have to be made. Mandating insurance for the young is not a bad way of paying for universal coverage. As it stands, health insurance companies routinely refuse cover for people with pre-existing health problems. Allowing a redistribution of the additional costs of treating these people among the fit and healthy is the fair option. Whether the politicians will think so is another matter. The Republicans believe this infringes basic liberty. The Democrats are not united. It's going to be interesting to see who wins the argument.


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