THE UNINSURED: Young Adults ‘Slip Through the Cracks’
The final part of the Sacramento Bee's series on California's uninsured examines young adults who cannot afford or choose not to buy health insurance, thus greatly swelling the ranks of the state's uninsured population. There are up to three million uninsured adults ages 19-34, accounting for nearly 40% of the state's 7.5 million uninsured population, according to the University of California-Los Angeles' Center for Health Policy Research. Young adults are nearly twice as likely to be uninsured compared to older adults or children, and the gap has increased consistently since the 1970s, when "soaring health care costs" forced employers to ask workers to contribute more toward their employer-sponsored coverage. Unless they are full- time students, young adults are removed from their parents' plans at age 19. Taking entry-level jobs, young adults often work for employers who do not offer health insurance or do not make enough to purchase insurance on their own. Single adults without children also do not qualify for Medi-Cal, regardless of their income, leaving them on their own to purchase insurance. "Young, childless adults are the forgotten population," Cathy Schoen of the Commonwealth Fund said. However, Blue Cross of California is attempting to remedy the problem. The plan "automatically enrolls young adults in their own plan when they 'age off' a parent's Blue Cross plan" and then gives the enrollees the option of accepting the plan or dropping out. Blue Cross also informs parents that they have the option of paying for their children's plans. Michael Chee, a Blue Cross spokesperson, said, "What we're doing is capturing our own over- aged dependents. It's never been done before. It seems logical, but until now, we let all these people slip through the cracks" (Fisher, Sacramento Bee, 10/18).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.