Molly Adams is the host and producer of YouthCast for Public Radio Exchange. Her essay was brought to us by Youth Radio.
Before health care reform was signed into law, President Obama made a speech where he was pretty much talking to me when he said: "If you're a young adult, which many of you are, you'll be able to stay on your parents' insurance policy until you're 26 years old."
This was good news for me -- two years since I became an official independent adult. That rite of passage was graduating from college and being removed from my parents' health insurance coverage. And since then I haven't been able to find an affordable plan as a single person who works three different jobs. So when the law was signed I called my mom, Sheera LaBelle, and I asked her a question to which I could guess the answer: "Mom, will you take me back?
"Well I'd love to take you back," she said. "I'm really trying to figure out what this whole overhaul is going to mean. There have been so many rules, at least with my insurance."
I told my mom I'd take care of sorting out the rules. I called the benefits office of the University of Southern Maine where my mom works and found out that I can re-enroll in her plan in November and be covered by January. Yeah, it's not Sept. 23 -- the date the provision "officially" takes effect. I'm just glad my parents have a plan that qualifies.
Right now, I am completely financially independent of them, something I've been working for since graduating from college. It is a strange and kind of demeaning concept to revisit a dependent type of relationship with them. I asked my mom recently if she thought this was awkward, too.
"It is what it is," she told me. "It's a stopgap measure. And you will be only covered for a couple of years until you turn 26. My hope would be that you would get a job that pays benefits. As far as it costing extra money for us, it didn't make a huge difference. It wasn't a whole lot more because I think in general people your age are healthy. And so it would be peace of mind to me to know that you have health care coverage."
It would be peace of mind to me, too. Even though I'm healthy, I live in a state of paranoia. Something could happen to me between now and January that no savings account could ever cover. Last year I made $18,000. Before taxes.
This might be surprising, but the health care reform law is not a topic of conversation among my friends. I only know one other person who tried to get back on her parents' plan. But instead, she decided to split the cost of an individual PPO with her mom to avoid some headaches. My friends only talk about health care when they need immediate access. Then we're sharing information about deals in clinics or free services.
Here's what a lot of friends my age and in the same situation are focusing all their energy on: transitioning from freelance -- or part-time -- to full-time work with benefits. Not health insurance.
I see that changing in 2014. That's when, under the new health care law, many people -- and not just young adults, but most uninsured adults -- will have to make a choice: be covered or pay a fine. At that point, I hope I'll be a worker with benefits, not one shopping the health care exchanges for health care I can afford.