Healthy Precautions: Turning 26 Under Obamacare
I am 25 and healthy, and have scheduled 10 doctor appointments since January. A smorgasbord of nonexistent ailments propel me to these offices under one guiding principle: In eight months I will turn 26—and be off my parent's health insurance.
At that point, my mind and body will be mine to care for, no safety net shimmering in the sun of prolonged childhood to catch me below. So, when do we millennials become adults? I say about the time we cross into our mid-20s and purchase our first Groupon for $50 off of an annual optometric exam.
I have argued that on this issue alone, young adults who voted for the president in this past election were well justified. This act is important for the millions of college graduates each year who might otherwise have been at least temporarily uninsured. The Commonwealth Fund reported that “[n]early two of five young adults ages 19-29 were without health insurance for all or part of 2011...” and “60 percent said they did not get needed health care because of cost…” Currently the law only benefits those up to the age of 26, but it seems this cut-off may not be enough. Voting for reelection means that just maybe term two will bring an extension.
Until then, I'm on a cavity hunt. My dentist monitors my horrendous teeth (I brush, I swear; it's genetic), marking certain ones "to watch." My smart mother, a pediatric auditor at Columbia Medical Center, suggested I stop watching and have those addressed while I'm still covered for dental, which many office policies do not include. "You're the first to ask," my dentist said when I suggested we fill those bad boys before 2014. I bet I won't be the last.
There is, however, still much confusion surrounding the law. Most people I speak with are unsure if it is until, or through, your 26th year (sadly, it's until). Many others assert that if their personal employer offers insurance, they are then not eligible as dependents to remain on a parent’s plan (according to the U.S. Department of Labor, this will change in 2014). "I'll just have to get married before 26. Any takers?" I quip to my parents, who wouldn't mind at all if I did just that. But in truth, it is worth pausing to consider what advantages marriage might have offered those of us making this transition solo. These quandaries do not stem from a lack of ambition. Say I want to work at a great part-time job while taking computer-programming courses to help me switch careers? No problem! If my husband's job or school would cover me. Otherwise, at 26 I am limited in my options for how to advance or change my career path. Not exactly insurmountable (hello, night classes), but in the currency of career advancement, options are power.
Then again, maybe if I wear an Urban Outfitters T-shirt emblazoned with the president's face tucked under my interview blazer and hope really hard, I might be able to continue swinging that gilded trapeze a little longer. Call it coddling, but when it comes to my health, I’d rather be an insured emerging adult than an uninsured adult for as long as possible.