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What the Young Adult Coverage Provision Means to Me

February 28, 2013
Related Topics: Health Care Reform, Health Care Costs, Health and Wellness, Health Care Benefits
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Ed Frauenheim is on assignment.

The risks of being uninsured traditionally hung above the proverbial head of the youngest generation entering America's workforce like the Sword of Damocles. Since the advent of health insurance, the youngest generation of workers typically has carried the highest rate of uninsured individuals—usually 30 percent.

One of the "gifts" President Obama gave my generation during his first term is the Young Adult Coverage provision, which allows us to stay on our parents' health insurance plans until we're 26. With my generation facing an unemployment rate around 50 percent, this is huge for us. In fact, it's bigger than huge—it's potentially life saving.

Because of this Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provision, and despite the fact that my generation is relatively healthier than the greater population, many people my age no longer have to stress about getting sick or seriously hurt. And we don't have to worry about the consequences such illnesses pose to our tiny wallets.

The same goes for our parents who don't have to worry about our health and the complimentary risks that illness or injury carry for their bank accounts. Further, this provision allows our health to represent an even smaller threat to our parents' pocketbooks as it only calls for a 1 to 3 percent increase in health care premium costs, mainly because we're so cheap to insure.

I first started thinking about this topic in late 2012 after hearing the news that pizza chain Papa John's was planning to cut weekly hours for many full-time employees to 28 hours per week to avoid providing them with health insurance. I was interested in finding out if the majority of Papa John's workforce even needed to worry about being denied a basic form of health insurance because I guessed the average age of a fast-food employee fell under the Young Adult Coverage provision's 26-year-old limit. As it turns out, though, the national average for age of fast-food employees is around 29 years.

Realizing that denying his employees health insurance would place him at a "competitive disadvantage," 'Papa' John Schnatter recanted his remarks about Obamacare last month. If he had not, there would now be plenty of pizza makers over 26 making less money and without access to affordable, basic health insurance (until 2014 when personal subsidies will be offered to help low-income individuals and families purchase insurance).

It surprises me that somebody like Schnatter took so long to figure out not providing health insurance to his employees would put him at a competitive disadvantage with other fast-food pizza chains. In addition to being a great recruitment tool for low-wage workers over the age of 26, offering basic health care gives a business the opportunity to manage costs associated with short- and long-term disability absences. Ultimately, the ACA allows Papa John's to build trust with the American consumer, to defy the contemporary notion that big corporations are heartless entities that only look at employees as costs to be minimized and customers as profits to be gained.

I'm thankful beyond words to have the option of staying on my parents' health insurance plan until I find a "real" job. As an editorial intern, I'm not entitled to this kind of benefit. And without the YAC provision, I'd be uninsured, praying to whomever and whatever deity ever created that I don't get nailed by a crazy Chicago cab or contract some wild disease only one doctor in Illinois knows how to treat.

Fortunately, I have the luxury of having two loving parents that would, and thankfully possess the capability to, help me out if anything serious happened. Unfortunately, this is not the situation of everyone my age. But thankfully, the population of millennials living without health insurance has been greatly reduced by the YAC provision.

"Does not Dionysius seem to have made it sufficiently clear that there can be nothing happy for the person over whom some fear always looms?" – Cicero

Max Mihelich is Workforce's editorial intern. Follow Mihelich on Twitter at @workforcemax. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com.

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