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New Coverage Option for Young Pennsylvanians

PA State SignWe’ve written about the insurance dilemma facing young people, especially recent college graduates, before.

Young people between the ages of 19 and 29 comprise the largest uninsured group in the United States.

Those without serious medical problems may be able to slide by without insurance for awhile.

But young folks who are dependent on medical care often have difficulty obtaining coverage.

Many are too old to be covered by their parents’ insurance once their college healthcare expires.

That leaves this group with two options:

  1. Purchase individual insurance on the private market; or
  2. Find a job with coverage benefits.

We showed how difficult and costly it is to obtain insurance on the private market.  Folks with pre-existing conditions have an added challenge since many insurers refuse to sell them affordable policies.

And finding a job with insurance benefits is tough, especially as the economic recession continues.

In the PBS documentary “Sick Around America,” we learned that many young folks are taking jobs unrelated to their interests for the sole purpose of obtaining employer-sponsored insurance benefits.  Some young people are delaying their plans indefinitely, which is a costly drain on our society over the long-term.

Three years ago, I found myself in this very situation as a college graduate with no insurance.

Luckily, I found a job with benefits in my field within a year of moving back to my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pa.  In the meantime, I was able to purchase health services at a Community Health Center that offered a sliding-scale fee to the uninsured based on income.

Things will almost certainly be easier for my sister, who graduated from college this past Memorial Day weekend.  As a resident of Pennsylvania, she will be eligible to stay on our parents’ health insurance plan until the age of 29.


Exciting News: The Pennsylvania House just passed a bill that allows state residents up to the age of 29 to be added to, or remain on, their parents’ health insurance plans as long as they live in-state or are full-time students.

To be eligible, youngsters must be single and have no dependents.

The bill allows employers to decide if they want to offer the insurance option to their employees, which means that some smaller employers will certainly opt out due to cost.  The plan premiums will also be higher for families that choose to add adult dependents.

Governor Rendell (D-PA) is expected to sign the legislation when it reaches his desk.  The Senate passed its own version of the bill in March.

Some might argue that this initiative is nothing more than “entitlement expansion” and that it will do nothing to control costs or reform the healthcare system in other ways.

We do need to take concrete steps to control costs and encourage healthier lifestyles.  But initiatives that help folks to access care TODAY are also important as we examine the other reform options on the table.

For more information on this legislation, check out this article by the Harrisburg-Patriot News.

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