By Mina Kim, KQED
David Kim, brother of KQED health reporter Mina Kim, is 29-years-old and uninsured. He is considering whether to buy insurance on the health care marketplace if he doesn’t have employer-based coverage next year. (Mina Kim/KQED)
Most of us know someone who doesn’t have health insurance. In my case, it’s my little brother, David Kim.
David is 29-years-old and recently earned an advanced degree in international relations. He hasn’t been able to land a full-time job with health benefits. The two jobs he has now are temporary, and with such a precarious work situation, he just doesn’t think he can afford health insurance.
“I’m totally aware that if I get sick then I’m doomed financially,” Dave told me over a lunch break. “And maybe that’s not a very financially sound decision to make, but it is nonetheless a risk that, for the time being, I’m prepared to take.”
Young adults —18 to 34-year-olds — make up more than 40 percent of California’s uninsured, though they make up less than 30 percent of the population. And according to many health reform advocates, they’re the ones who could make or break Obamacare.
“If we get only sick people, and don’t get the young, healthy people into the insurance system, it’s going to mean premiums are much higher.”
“The success of this law really does depend on getting young people insured, and frankly getting everyone insured,” said Larry Levitt, a health policy and insurance expert for the Kaiser Family Foundation.
In less than five months, a key piece of Obamacare will go live: state-based insurance marketplaces, called Covered California here. That means millions of Californians looking for coverage for themselves or their families will be able to go online and enroll in qualified health plans regardless of their medical history. Many will get help from federal subsidies. But if the exchange doesn’t enroll enough young, healthy people, insurers will have to hike everyone’s premiums. Continue reading