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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Obamacare Empowers Young Health Care Consumers

This blog was written by a guest blogger from Maryland.

I am a 25-year-old underemployed recent college graduate. I received a degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Maryland in the spring of 2010. When I graduated, I was offered a full-time position with an engineering firm that had several transportation contracts. As the economy stalled, so did those contracts, and I was laid off in the winter of 2012.

The provision in the Affordable Care Act that allows young adults to remain on their parents’ health insurance until they are 26 years old is the reason I still have affordable health care right now. It is the reason I am able to continue paying rent, live independently instead of in my parents’ basement, and able to buy groceries while I job hunt, instead of paying out of pocket on a COBRA health insurance plan month to month. My parents’ health insurance coverage gives me access to fully covered annual well-woman visits and breast exams and even affordable dental cleanings.

I was able to afford much-needed birth control because of Obama’s health care law. I received an Intrauterine Device (IUD) after the Affordable Care Act was passed, but before birth control was required to be copay free to insured patients. My parents’ health insurance covered $800 of the $1200 procedure. Now, because of new provisions that have gone into effect under the health law, women dealing with the same situation will no longer have to pay out of pocket for birth control at all.

I was lucky enough to be able to afford my copay of $400 at the time I was given the IUD. I fully support continued copay-free access to these birth control options for all women because I recognize that I am one of the fortunate ones that was able to spare $400 at the time of the procedure. I can rest easy knowing that I will not have to worry about the cost of birth control for the next five years.

Another service I was privileged enough to be able to afford before the Affordable Care Act went into effect was the HPV vaccine. The law had not yet passed during my senior year of college, in 2009. I knew it was the smartest health care decision for me to receive the HPV vaccine. The vaccine prevents against several strains of HPV, greatly reducing my risk of cervical cancer. At the time, I was not allowed to be on my parent’s health insurance because federal regulations only required insurance companies to provide coverage for children until they turned 22. I paid over $600 out of pocket to receive the consecutive three rounds of the Gardasil vaccine. I recognize how rare it is to have $600 laying around for any young American. If the Affordable Care Act had been passed just a few years earlier, my parents’ insurance would have still covered me through my last year of college. That $600 could have gone to books or supplies, maybe to pay off my student loans.

Access to health care like this is non-negotiable for me. I need to be able to take care of my body the way I see fit. The Affordable Care Act empowers me to be able to make these decisions on my own and not be limited by the decisions of whoever happens to be my insurance provider. I am able to keep up with the bills associated with living on my own, paying back my student loan debt, and searching for a job in a precarious economy. I know that I am only able to do so because I was lucky enough to graduate in a time when health care access became much simpler for millions of Americans.