Young Invincibles

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For This Uninsured Man, Medicaid Looks Good

Brad Stevens used to think he didn’t need health insurance. (Sarah Varney/Kaiser Health News)

Brad Stevens used to think he didn’t need health insurance. (Sarah Varney/Kaiser Health News)

By Sarah Varney, for Kaiser Health News and NPR

Have you heard about the young invincibles? That’s the name given to young people who think nothing bad can happen to them.

Enrollment of healthy people like them in insurance under the Affordable Care Act is key to offsetting the costs of older, less healthy buyers.

Brad Stevens is 54-years-old and not so invincible anymore. He has been uninsured for most of his adult life — “ever since about 24 when I finished college,” he says. “Basically, I’ve always tried to take care of myself and be healthy and exercise and eat right and take vitamins and that type of thing.”

During the three decades Stevens has spent without health coverage, there have been numerous attempts to curb the ranks of the uninsured in the U.S. Now, the Affordable Care Act is changing the nation’s insurance market.

Stevens, who lives in Lakeport, on the west shore of northern California’s Clear Lake, has plenty of company. Twenty percent of California’s population is uninsured; some 5 million people could gain coverage under the health law.

The Kaiser Family Foundation surveyed 2,000 of California’s uninsured on the eve of the opening of health care exchanges across the country. Stevens took part in the survey, which aims to follow the same people over the next two years. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation.)

Over the years, Stevens wasn’t interested in the debate over how best to provide health care to the uninsured. He didn’t view it as an issue for him. “I’m the epitome of health, and so I didn’t have much concern. My health care was working out every day, eating right and taking care of myself,” he says. Continue reading

In Oakland, Sen. Boxer Bullish on Obamacare

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) talks about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act at a press conference in Oakland. (Chase Thomas/KQED)

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) talks about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act at a press conference in Oakland. (Chase Thomas/KQED)

It’s August. Congress is in recess, and that means your representatives and senators are hitting the home turf. With just two months until the Obamacare marketplaces open, across the country elected leaders are either talking up or trashing the Affordable Care Act. In the Bay Area, you can bet it will be the former.

People should become “ambassadors” for the health law, Boxer said.
So when Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) spoke at Oakland’s La Clinica de la Raza on Monday, she was full of praise for the health law. She recapped the reforms already in effect and then listed health insurance changes coming Jan. 1: no more denials for pre-existing conditions, no more lifetime limits on coverage, women can no longer be charged more than men of the same age.

Then she got to the heart of her message: People need to sign up. “It’s critical we tell California to take advantage” of these changes, Boxer said. People should become “ambassadors” for the health law, she continued. Because of California’s huge population — 38 million — and large number of uninsured — 7 million — the state is critical to the success of the health law. “Everything we do here is important for the whole nation,” Boxer said. Continue reading