Guest Editorial: Do the Right Thing; Sign Up for Health Insurance

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When the best interests of one’s country, the best interests of one’s state and one’s personal interests intersect, a right course of action should be easy to follow.

President John F. Kennedy once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.”

His exhortation rings true now as much as it did 50 years ago. And one of the best actions college-age adults can take now that will benefit their country is to sign up for health insurance under Covered California.

In fact, just under half of all the adults between the ages of 19 and 34 — about 47% according to the Kaiser Family Foundation — lack health insurance coverage. And for many who are now healthy, it seems like just an extra cost.

The insurance industry has even cooked up an epithet to describe those who choose not to purchase coverage, the “young invincibles,” intimating that these young people think they will never get sick and don’t need health insurance. For some, this may be true. But most probably either need a little more convincing that signing up is in their best interest or haven’t had time as of yet. But the best time to sign up, whatever the reason, is now.

For health reform to work, it is essential that everyone obtain health coverage. The risk simply must be spread around among the sick, healthy, young and old. But more importantly, it actually makes good economic sense as well.

After years of deficits and economic stagnation, we have begun to rebuild our economy, especially in California. The best way to accelerate the economy is to create an environment where people are willing to take the calculated risk of starting or investing in a business. With health care coverage not tied specifically to employment, young professionals can open that small business or partner with their friends in the next big technology innovation that will create jobs and wealth.

Imagine what happens to a potential young startup founder with no health insurance who gets cancer. The money that might have been invested goes to health care instead, and they are at square one when they get healthy.

Now imagine that same potential young startup founder had good insurance. They get treated for their disease, and while they may have had to take a break from their business endeavors, their investment money is still there.

This scenario highlights the benefits to the economy as well as the individual. Health insurance is a cost, yes, but the benefit is liberating in that it frees you to live the life you want free from the fear of what happens if you get sick.

For women, maternity care is now covered. If you have an unplanned pregnancy, you won’t have to put your life on hold because you can’t get insurance, because it can no longer be a “pre-existing” condition.

In fact, the health care law makes radical changes to the market for buying health coverage as an individual in that, for the first time, it requires insurers to accept all customers regardless of any pre-existing health conditions. It also limits the amount that insurers can charge elderly customers in that it can’t exceed three times the amount charged to the youngest subscribers.

Further, Covered California offers you a choice and subsidies if you need help paying for care.

You can get health insurance. Many college-age adults are doing just that. Covered California recently reported that over 125,000 young people between ages 18 and 34 signed up for coverage out of the over 500,000 enrollees in the state.

But we need even more to ensure continued success. Please do your part for your country, your state and your own health and obtain coverage as soon as you can.

Sharon Quirk-Silva represents Orange County residents living in the 65th Assembly District.

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