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White House: Health care law protects students after graduation

By Kathleen Sebelius

McClatchy
March 20, 2012

Graduation is just a few months away - and many of you will soon be making important decisions about jobs, graduate school, and your futures. Graduation day is always filled with promise, yet for you and your classmates, graduation day has also traditionally raised another worrisome question: where am I going to get health insurance?

The good news is that thanks to the new health care law, many young adults up to age 26 can now stay on their parents' plan. Since President Obama signed this landmark law two years ago this week, 2.5 million additional young adults have been able to get coverage under this invaluable benefit.

Before Congress enacted the health care law in 2010, most newly-minted college graduates left not only the classroom behind but their health insurance as well. That meant having to hopefully find a job that provided coverage - or buying coverage on their own, which can be unaffordable, especially for someone just out of college.

Those challenges meant that young adults were almost twice as likely to be uninsured as older Americans.

For many young adults who felt healthy or cash-strapped, going without coverage sometimes seemed like a good alternative. But forgoing health care coverage comes with serious risks. It left young people and their families vulnerable to accidents or illnesses that could mean a lifetime of medical bills and debt, or worse. And it also meant they often went without the kind of preventive care and checkups that could keep them healthy.

And for those who really needed coverage like young adults suffering from chronic conditions like diabetes going without coverage could mean going without critical, necessary care. As a result, many young adults made painful compromises, in some cases taking a job just because it offered insurance, instead of following a dream of grad school or going into business for themselves.

This wasn't just bad for young people. It was bad for our economy, keeping young people in jobs they didn't want to do and stifling innovation and entrepreneurship. In a world where great inventors, entrepreneurs, and CEOs can be young or old, America can't take the chance that the next Facebook won't happen because its creator had to take a desk job just to get health insurance.

Thanks to the law, young adults today have better options. Because many of them can stay on their parents' plans, they don't have to make these tradeoffs or live with the uncertainty of having no coverage. And Mom and Dad can breathe a little easier, too.

For the Makle family and their daughter Measha, the law has already made a big difference. Measha was on her mother's insurance plan while she was studying engineering at Morgan State University in Maryland. But their insurer had notified the family that when Measha turned 21, she was going to be kicked off the plan.

Measha had already started thinking about finding a job to pay for new coverage. But a little while later, their insurer sent a letter to the family notifying them that because of the health care law, Measha could stay on the plan until age 26. Now, Measha can concentrate on studying engineering, instead of worrying about health insurance.

Everyday we're hearing from more young adults like Measha who have benefitted from the law. We're collecting their stories at HealthCare.gov/MyCare, a site where you can learn about the law from the point of view of the people it is really helping and also share your own stories. We encourage you to check out the site, and feel free to tell your friends to do the same.

As you plan your next steps after college, you should be thinking about your dreams, not health coverage. Thanks to the health care law, millions of young Americans can now do just that.

Kathleen Sebelius is the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services; Arne Duncan is the U.S. Secretary of Education.