Friday, April 16, 2010

What Healthcare Reform Means for Young People

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: What Healthcare Reform Means for Young People

On March 23, President Barack Obama signed the much anticipated and debated healthcare reform bill into law. As the bill is over 2,000 pages and people from across the political spectrum are weighing in, many young people have been asking what this bill means for us.
We've put together this list of the good, the bad and the ugly to help you understand the details of the legislation.

The Good

  • About 13 million, or 1 in 3, US citizens between the age of 19 and 29 are uninsured. With healthcare reform, young people under 27 can stay on their parents' insurance. This will cover 2 million people who are currently uninsured.
  • In the past, a 22-year-old woman could be charged 1.5 times the premium of a 22-year-old man. Gender rating, a practice of insurance companies to charge women higher premiums based on gender alone, is now prohibited.
  • Denying insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions, which include breast cancer, pregnancy and domestic violence, is prohibited. Maternity care is covered. Access to preventative services and screenings will be expanded.
  • Citizens of Puerto Rico, nearly 40 percent who are under the age of 25, will receive $5.5 billion in new Medicaid funding and nearly $1 billion to participate in the national insurance exchange, where individuals can go and shop for insurance.
  • Young people contract about half of the 19 million sexually transmitted infections (STIs) each year. Under Medicaid, family planning will include preventative reproductive health services such as screening for STIs.
  • Community health centers, where many young people go to access reproductive healthcare services, will receive $11 billion in new funding.
  • $75 million is allocated for sex education that teaches about abstinence and contraception and $25 million to test new programs.

The Bad

  • Abstinence-only education will receive $250 million. Not only does abstinence-only education leave out the realities many young people face, it also increases the risk of unintended pregnancy and STIs.
  • Abortion access will be severely limited. Women will be required to write a separate check for their abortion coverage. Experts have speculated that many companies may drop abortion coverage altogether.
  • States can prohibit private insurers that want to offer their plans through state insurance exchanges from covering abortion.
  • The money allocated for community health centers cannot be used to provide abortions.
  • A five-year waiting period remains before those who have obtained legal permanent resident status can be covered under Medicaid. Undocumented immigrants still have no access to healthcare.
  • The public option was dropped from the bill. If a public option did pass, more affordable options would have been available for young people.
  • Expanded Medicaid coverage for people living with HIV was left out of the final bill. As those aged 13 to 29 account for over 34 percent of new HIV infections, young people will be particularly affected by this omission.
  • LGBT-specific provisions, including tax equity for employers who provide coverage for same-sex couples, were left out of the bill.

The Ugly

While we celebrate with the millions of people who will benefit from the provisions in the healthcare reform bill, we recognize that there are millions more who can't celebrate with us. We must continue the fight for women, LGBT people, immigrants, low-income people and young people whose needs have not been met by this bill. Much work remains to be done -- and Choice USA is in it for the long haul!

Next Steps

1. Choice USA will continue to advocate for comprehensive sex education and challenge funding for abstinence-only programs that endanger young people's health and wellness.
2. Choice USA will continue to support federal funding for abortion.
3. We want to hear your story! Tell us your thoughts and concerns about healthcare reform and what you want us to fight for! Email Kate Childs Graham, Choice USA's Communications Director, at to share your story.

Choice USA, 1317 F Street NW, Suite 501, Washington, DC 20004
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