The New York Times editorial on Sunday (8.23.09) had more information than I was able to impart in my blog “Who Are the Uninsured?” last week, about one group within the nearly 46 million people in the U.S. without health insurance: the 13 million young adults aged 19-29. This information is important because speculation drives opponents of reform to postulate about this group, imaginings not based on fact. It is also important for those who are thoughtful but still undecided about health care and who want to learn more about the actual profile of those without health insurance.
Here’s what the Times reported: "These are not, for the most part, healthy young professionals making a sensible decision to pay their own minimal medical bills rather than buy insurance that they are unlikely to need. The Kaiser foundation estimates that only 10 percent are college graduates, and only 5 percent have incomes above $60,000 a year, while half have family incomes below $16,000 a year. Many of these younger people would be helped by reform bills that would provide subsidized coverage for the poor and an exchange where individuals can buy cheaper insurance than is now available.”
One last point: Even though the Times editorial calls it a sensible decision for a young health worker to forgo health insurance and to pay for care as needed, it is only sensible in one respect: that in general the risks are low, so the individual can save money. But the risks are never zero. Moreover, by mandating basic insurance coverage for all, the government ensures that the insurance pool will expand to benefit society at large. Then, if a young, strong person is injured or becomes ill and faces enormous bills, well beyond what he or she may have imagined, that individual benefits from the coverage as well as society at large.