I am broke, and therefore…invincible?

Posted June, 20 2012 by arianne

The whole argument that young people don’t buy insurance because they don’t think they need it (i.e. the “young invincibles” stereotype) has bugged me for some time.

Having somewhat recently emerged from the 19 -29 age bracket, I can say firsthand that it never occurred to me at any point during my free-wheeling years that I didn’t need health insurance.  Any gaps in my coverage were purely due to the fact that I was between jobs and didn’t have the income to pay for COBRA coverage.  The same went for most of my friends too.  Not having health insurance when you are financially on your own is stressful.

Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t some young, extreme sport Mountain Dew enthusiasts out there who really do revel in taking risks, or independently wealthy young folks who can afford to pay for any health care out-of-pocket.  But, those really do represent the minority among young people.

I’ve long been a believer that the term “young invincible” was one coined by the insurance industry as a way of convincing the public that what young people really want is cheap, crappy insurance products with huge deductibles that won’t do us a lick of good when we actually need it, or plans that won’t help us at all if we develop an itchy eye infection from sleeping in our contact lenses, but might cover a few days on a ventilator if we get hit by a Mack truck.

And sure, young adults are as a whole healthier than older adults, but most of us know someone our own age – if not ourselves – who have gotten sick.  Like, really sick.  A good friend of mine got skin cancer on his face when he was 23.  Another guy I know got testicular cancer at 26.  A girl I waited tables with in college struggled with uterine fibroids for years.  Another girlfriend fell playing basketball and knocked out her two front teeth!  Trust me – we just want what everyone else wants: good,  affordable coverage that we can rely on when we need it.

That’s why I found a new report issued by the Commonwealth Fund recently to be a breath of fresh air.  The report surveyed young adults aged 19-29 on health insurance.  It found that of young adults who are offered health insurance through their jobs, 64% end up taking it up.  Of those 36% that don’t take it up, only 6% said it was because they didn’t need it.  The other 30% were either already covered elsewhere, or simply couldn’t afford it.  In fact, 36% of all young adults said they had problems paying medical bills or were paying off medical debts over time.  For those who had no insurance, 51% said they had problems with medical bills.

Doesn’t really sound like a population that is touting their own invincibility, does it? I mean, remember, these are the same people who rushed out by the millions to get on their parents’ insurance plans once the ACA gave them the green light to do so.

Anyways, it’s a good report to check out.  If anything, it confirms what most of us youngins (and former youngins) already knew.

Click here to read the Commonwealth Fund report, titled, “Young, Uninsured, and in Debt: Why Young Adults Lack Health Insurance and How the Affordable Care Act is Helping.”

And, here’s a related article from Kaiser Health News, titled “Survey: Young Adults Don’t Necessarily Fit ‘Young Invincible’ Stereotype.”