For many young people, getting health insurance is not at the top of their to-do list. If you’re healthy, rarely get sick, and never go to the doctor, why would obtaining insurance be a priority? It certainly wasn’t a priority for me. However, at age 23, I was diagnosed with fibrocystic breast disease.
This disease requires ongoing medical attention including monthly check-ups, regular biopsies, and ultrasounds. Had I not been covered through my parents’ health insurance I would have had to pay for my medical expenses out of pocket and be up to my eyeballs in debt, like many others in this country. The reality is that illnesses and accidents happen to everyone, and you need to be prepared to handle them when they come knocking at your door. If you are currently without health coverage or planning to leave your parents’ plan, I encourage you to sign up. There are so many reasons to get covered including:
- Peace of mind. Insurance may seem expensive, but not having it can cost more. When I received my first medical bill for a biopsy and ultrasound I was astonished by what my bill would have cost if I was not covered—nearly $2,000. In the last six months alone, I have undergone more than six. Imagine adding that to your monthly bills; it would be crippling. By comparison, my insurance premium is only around $100 per month making the monthly premium much more affordable.
- Preventive care. Those with health insurance are more likely to seek preventive care services such as cholesterol checks and cancer screenings, helping people catch serious medical conditions early when they are more treatable. Preventive care benefits can be different depending on your gender and plan but include things such as breastfeeding support, contraception, cancer screenings, and well-woman visits just to name a few. Research shows that people with health insurance are found to be mentally and physically healthier than those without.
- It’s the law. Under the Affordable Care Act if you can afford health insurance but choose not to buy it, you must pay a fee called the individual shared responsibility payment. You pay the fee for any month you, your spouse, or your tax dependents don’t have qualifying health coverage. The fee can be calculated one of two ways – as a percentage of your household income, or per person. You’ll pay whichever is higher.
The future of the health care landscape is unknown. Soon, the fate of the Affordable Care Act and Health Insurance Marketplace will be cast, possibly changing how every person accesses health care in this country. The effects will be felt not only by those who secured coverage through the Marketplace but also by individuals using private plans through their employers or by dependents who rely on their parents’ plans. Therefore I urge you, especially if you are young and healthy, to take an interest in your own health care, become health literate, and sign up for insurance if you are not covered. You may not be able to control what happens to your health, but you can educate yourself so that when life happens, you will be ready to weather the storm.