By Danielle Robbio
Contrary to what many in the media may believe, young people do care about the implementation of Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But just like many other people in America, many of us may be confused about its provisions, which may apply to us and how.
Though I am a senior at Boston University and have studied health policy, I acknowledge that I do not understand everything I may need to know about the new law. Even my classmates pursuing careers in medicine and related fields lack a true understanding of health reform, and while intrinsically paradoxical, it is not surprising. My knowledge is greater than my peers on this topic, but the confusion I have is only magnified among others in my age group who are less familiar with health policy.
This summer, I interned with a small nonprofit, Health Care for All Colorado, so I could learn more about what is driving health policy at the state level during this period of ACA implementation. I was asked to help those in my parents’ generation understand what my generation is thinking about health care and health policy. I took their questions and found that the simplistic view — that young people are not old enough or sick enough to care about the topic — was the least accurate.
During our college years, we may not place our physical health at the top of our concerns, but that does not mean we all see ourselves as the “young invincibles” as has been so often suggested. A normal day consists of getting to class, working and completing my reading, papers and other assignments with little time for much else. After a laborious day, I admit having a bit of a social life matters to me. Like most of my friends, it isn’t a party scene we are devoted to but a life of frenetic activity aimed at being ready for the next phase of adult life. I plan to attend graduate school while many of my peers will enter the work force. But for many looking off into the distance of time and life experience, that often means seeing the need for health care coverage as less pressing than other demands.
Knowing whether we need to be concerned about health insurance benefits isn’t always an easy topic, and health care reform isn’t the most compelling hot-button issue either. Some young people will now stay on their parents’ policies until they are 26 while others will find coverage under public programs if they are eligible, or they will find coverage through their colleges or universities. Options like these have perhaps instilled a sense of complacency in young adults.
Most of us do understand that being uninsured isn’t the preferred way to go, even within our relatively healthy population. And many young adults — more than seven out of 10, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll — recognize that it is a necessary and valuable investment. Yet knowing that we should have coverage and having the information we need to make wise decisions are two very different things. And when put in the context of other issues to worry about, like paying student loans, finding affordable housing, feeding ourselves, having transportation and other necessities, health care coverage may tumble down the list of priorities.
The fundamental lack of understanding of Obamacare combined with an absence of immediate concern among some in my generation will render us seemingly hubristic until we are forced to confront the health care mess left for us. I understand that engaging young people about health reform is not as invigorating as fighting for gay marriage or against economic inequalities, but it is incredibly important, especially now. We may be confused about the ACA and have wild misconceptions about health care in other countries along with the rest of the population, but it is crucial that we sort through the headlines and work toward a more efficient and fair system of care.
Danielle Robbio is a Colorado native and will return to Boston University as a fourth-year student in the fall. She is majoring in health science with a minor in Spanish. Contact her at email@example.com.