Kassandra Harris is a graduate of Planned Parenthood Federation of America's inaugural Youth Rising Fellowship class, and a senior at the College of Charleston majoring in Public Health.
Imagine a college student handling all of the stressors of being a student: tests, quizzes, campus organizations, social obligations, keeping up with family and friends back home. Next, imagine a young adult working paycheck to paycheck worrying about their power bill, rent, gas, and food. Now add in the stress of having no health insurance to each of these individuals. The fear of getting sick and having no way to pay for medical care or prescriptions — this is a fear that no one should face.
This was the reality of many young people before President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law in 2010. The ACA, commonly referred to as Obamacare, has been tremendous in uplifting the quality of life for many Americans. In the year 2010, there were nearly 46 million Americans living without health insurance, yet one in five young adults still do not have health care. This is unacceptable in today’s society.
Why is this important? It’s simple. Having health insurance and access to care is a matter of justice. In addition to justice, a healthy population benefits everyone. A healthy population specifically translates into children and young adults staying in school, a competent workforce, and citizens being able to contribute to the economy. As a basic human right, it is the responsibility of every citizen to ensure everyone has equity of access.
Now, if you're a young person, I bet you’re wondering: "So what changes have actually occurred that positively impact my life?" Luckily, I have some answers for you. For starters, young adults can now remain on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26. This was a personal victory for me. It has taken the pressure of finding a job with benefits immediately after graduation in May. In addition to the age extension, ACA contains a Medicaid expansion covering more Americans who would have trouble affording health care premiums on their own. Preventive care is something the American people desperately need, and fortunately the ACA required insurance companies to cover it. This includes cancer screenings, immunizations for children, and well-woman exams, all of which are extremely important to the health of this nation.
These are just a few ways the ACA is making life easier for Americans, and more specifically young adults. Personally, the ACA has significantly helped me. Before this law passed my birth control was $46 a pack, but since the ACA was signed into law my birth control is now free! I don’t have to worry about having the money in my account in order to my protect myself. It’s a peace of mind, which I can only imagine has been magnified for those that did not have any insurance at all.
I hope I have helped you understand why the ACA is important and how it affects the lives of young people across this nation. But I know there’s that burning statistic in the back of your mind: “Did she say 1 in 5 young people STILL do not have health insurance?” Yes, I definitely said that — but luckily for those people without health insurance, they have until February 15, 2015 to enroll in health insurance!
I have even better news: January 29, 2015 is National Youth Enrollment Day and Planned Parenthood Generation groups all over the country will be holding enrollment events. To enroll, contact your local Planned Parenthood or visit www.plannedparenthoodhealthinsurancefacts.org.
What is Planned Parenthood Generation? It is a project of Planned Parenthood Federation of America that brings together young organizers and activists across the country to organize events on their campuses and in their communities to bring about lasting change. One of the ways Planned Parenthood Generation does this is by ensuring Americans are armed with the necessary knowledge and tools to make informed decisions. Planned Parenthood Generation is dedicated to ensuring all Americans are enrolled and protected under the ACA. Learn about Planned Parenthood Generation at www.plannedparenthoodgenaction.org.
Being a college student, it feels wonderful that my biggest worry about getting sick is missing class or a social event that I desperately wanted to attend. Even if you already have health insurance, share this information with a friend. Being almost 3,000 pages, the ACA is difficult to read and understand, so reach out to those around you, and discuss this law and how it impacts young people. Let’s all get enrolled and see a healthier America.