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This Is Why Millennials Are Struggling to Get Health Insurance

This Is Why Millennials Are Struggling to Get Health Insurance
From TIME - December 6, 2017

Marguerite Moniot felt frustrated and flummoxed, despite the many hours she spent in front of the computer this year reading consumer reviews of health insurance plans offered on the individual market in Virginia. Moniot was preparing to buy a policy of her own, knowing she would age out of her parents plan when she turned 26 in October.

She asked her parents for help and advice. But they, too, ran into trouble trying to decipher which policy would work best for their daughter. The family had relied on her fathers employer-sponsored plan through his work as an architect for years, so no one had spent much time sifting through policies.

Honestly, my parents were just as confused as I was, said Moniot, a restaurant server in Roanoke.

In defeat, just before Thanksgiving, she went with her mother to meet a certified health insurance navigator, buying a policy that allowed her to keep her current doctors.

A new crop of young people like Moniot are falling off their parents insurance plans when they turn 26the age when the Affordable Care Act stipulates that children must leave family policies.

They were then expected to be able to shop relatively easily for their own insurance on Obamacare marketplaces. But with Trump administration revisions to the law and congressional bills injecting uncertainty into state insurance markets, that task of buying insurance for the first time this year is anything but simple.

The shortened sign-up period, which started Nov. 1, runs through Dec. 15. That window is half as long as last years, hampering those who wait until the last minute to obtain insurance.

Reminders and help are scarcer than before: The federal government cut marketing and outreach funds by $90 million, and federal funding to groups providing in-person assistance was whacked by 40 percent.

I think its definitely going to be difficult. Theres just additional barriers with [less] in-person help, just fewer resources going around, said Erin Hemlin, director of training and consumer education for Young Invincibles, an advocacy group for young adults.

Emily Curran, a research fellow at Georgetown Universitys Health Policy Institute, said those actions combined with the Trump administrations vigorous criticism of the health law could further handicap the uphill battle to entice young people to enroll. As of Nov. 25, nearly 2.8 million people had enrolled through the federal marketplace, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The data were not sorted by age.

Theres already a barrier where young adults are having difficulty understanding what the value of insurance is, she said. Coming outand saying prices are going up, choice is going down and this law is a mess doesnt really get at the young adult population.

Trouble attracting young ddults

Before the Affordable Care Act, young adults had the highest uninsured rate of any age group.

The ACA made coverage more affordable and accessible. It allowed states to expand Medicaid to cover single, childless adults. Tax credits to help pay for premiums made plans on the individual market more affordable for people whose incomes fell between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level (between $12,060 and $48,240 for an individual). And young adults were allowed to stay on their parents plan until their 26th birthday.

In all, the uninsured rate dropped to roughly 15 percent among 19- to 34-year-olds in 2016. Still, young adults have not joined the individual market in the numbers as expected. About a quarter of marketplace customers in 2016 were ages 18-34, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. But that age group makes up about 40 percent of the exchanges potential market, according to researchers and federal officials.

If the Trump administrations moves dampen enrollment, insurers could face additional challenges in attracting healthy adults to balance those with illnesses, who drive up costs.

When youre relatively healthy, its not something that youre thinking about, said Sandy Ahn, associate research professor at Georgetown Universitys Health Policy Institute.

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