How Will Young Adults Afford Insurance?

There's been some grumbling that young people haven't mobilized for health reform as strongly as they did for Obama during election season. Katha Pollitt expressed the sentiment in a column last month:

We need you to stand on street corners handing out fliers that explain what healthcare reform is really all about and how people can make sure it doesn't get swallowed whole by the drug and insurance companies. Surely you're not too young and strong and healthy and vegan to care about boring parent stuff like health insurance?

This is unfair for a few reasons. First of all, progressives of all ages have been outmaneuvered during this debate. As Robert Reich wrote here at TAPPED, even middle-age lefties haven't been able to get their act together in terms of organizing a health reform march on the Washington Mall. And while there are some great benefits for young adults in the various health reform proposals -- primarily the right to stay on a parent's health plan until age 26, and an end to "gender rating," in which young women are charged more than young men because they use more health care -- there are also pitfalls. As the Washington Post reports, a "cheap" health plan after reform may still cost as much as $100 monthly. Facing an individual mandate to buy coverage, that is a significant burden for low-wage and even middle-income young adults.

That's one reason supporters of reform should pressure the White House and Congress to expand subsidies, regardless of what happens to the public option. The House plan to offer subsidies to individuals making as much as $43,000 annually is much more generous than the Senate Finance plan, which cuts that number down to $32,490.

The administration's white paper on reform, released to coincide with the president's speech last week, avoided the issue of subsidies altogether. But as Obama and advocates pitch health reform directly to young people this week, beginning tomorrow with an event at the University of Maryland, affordability will be a major concern. Young people deserve to hear specifics on how government will help them pay for coverage.

While we wait for specifics though, we can enjoy this ridiculous Rock the Vote health reform ad featuring the annoying stars of "Scrubs."

--Dana Goldstein

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