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Young adults' medical debt rises: Millions join parents' health plans

drugs030912_optBY ADRIENNE VOGT
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM

In the HBO show “Girls,” a doctor tells the lead character, Hannah, “You could not pay me enough to be 24 again.”

And unemployed Hannah responds, “Well, they’re not paying me at all.”

The difference between Hannah’s character and many other young adults is that she was actually able to pay the doctor a visit.

Nearly two out of five young adults aged 19-29 did not have health insurance for all or part of 2011, according to a survey by the nonprofit The Commonwealth Fund.

60 percent said they did not get needed health care because of the cost, and half said they were struggling to pay medical bills or had ongoing medical debt.

That means cutting back on doctor visits, not filling prescriptions and forgoing screenings.

"Getting sick isn't something that a healthy 26-year-old expected to have to pay for. They didn't budget for it," said Dr. Jeffrey Hausfeld, who owns a medical debt collection agency, to CNN Money.

43 percent of those who had medical debt said they used up all their savings to pay their bills, 31 percent said they delayed education or career plans, and 28 percent said they couldn’t pay for food or rent, according to the survey.

Compounded by the student loan crisis, young adults are having trouble enough just finding jobs to pay for everyday expenses, which is driving medical care costs to the back burner. Government data shows that unemployment among 16-to-24-year-olds was 16.1 percent in May, almost double the 8.2 percent national rate, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

But even if they do get a job, young adults are not guaranteed health benefits. The National Endowment for Financial Education found that 40 percent of working adults have seen benefits reduced or cut out entirely over the past five years by their employers, according to CNN Money.

The Commonwealth survey found that between November 2010 and November 2011, about 13.7 million young adults ages 19-25 stayed on or joined their parents' health plans as part of the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s health care system overhaul. 6.6 million aged 26 and younger joined their parents' plans in 2011, which is the largest ever one-year increase in coverage for the age group, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

“While the Affordable Care Act has already provided a new source of coverage for millions of young adults at risk of being uninsured, more help is needed for those left behind,” Commonwealth Fund Vice President Sara Collins said.

But parts of the law were deemed unconstitutional, and it could be struck down this month when the Supreme Court will rule on objections. Nonetheless, Republican lawmakers vow to preserve the coverage for young adults, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

It remains to be seen if the law is a viable long-term solution.

“Fewer Americans would need to remain on their parents’ health insurance if they had stable, full-time work,” Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., wrote on the Joint Economic Committee’s website.

 
Comments (2)
2 Sunday, 10 June 2012 00:21
backpackerguy22
I do not see any statistical evidence on this article to justify your headline--where exactly is the data that shows young adults' medical debt rising?
1 Sunday, 10 June 2012 00:21
backpackerguy22
I do not see any statistical evidence on this article to justify your headline--where exactly is the data that shows young adults' medical debt rising?

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