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Health care repeal would be costly for young Americans

BY GUEST OPINION | FEBRUARY 18, 2011 7:20 AM

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To win the future, America will need to invest in future generations and make the kind of commitments and reforms that allow our nation to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. Effectively implementing the Affordable Care Act is a vital part of this effort.

But some in Congress want to re-fight the political battles of the past two years and repeal the law, along with all of its new consumer protections and benefits. That would be a major setback for young Americans.

We know that young adults were one of the most vulnerable groups of Americans in our old health-insurance system. Too many college graduates weren’t just worrying about finding a job; they also wondered how they were going to get health insurance. I saw this firsthand with my two sons. When they graduated from college, they were both fortunate to get jobs. But neither of their employers offered insurance.

They were healthy and had the resources to buy coverage, but not all Americans are that lucky. Young adults have less access to employer-based health insurance than any other group. And they often can’t afford to buy it on their own — especially if they’ve just graduated from high school or college with limited savings and, in some cases, thousands of dollars in debt.

As a result, Americans in their 20s are almost twice as likely to go without health insurance as older adults.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, that’s changing. The law gives young people peace of mind by allowing children to stay on their parents’ plans up to age 26 if they don’t have access to coverage of their own.

The law is also making health care more affordable. For those purchasing insurance in one of the new marketplaces, it’s estimated that the new law could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars. For example, average people making $27,000 will save more than $1,600 on their premiums beginning in 2014. A family of four making $55,000 will save an average of $6,000.

Young people across the country are also benefiting from the law’s Patient’s Bill of Rights, which outlaws many of the worst abuses of the insurance industry. A year ago, insurers could cancel your coverage when you got sick, just because you made a mistake on your application. Now, this practice has been banned — along with other harmful policies such as lifetime dollar limits on benefits, which often meant your benefits disappeared when you needed them most.

And young people are getting better access to care thanks to the law’s workforce investment, which is helping train and support 16,000 new primary-care providers by 2015 and nearly doubling the number of patients served by community health centers by addressing pressing construction and renovation needs.

Perhaps most importantly, the health-care law is slowing the growth of health-care costs over time so that our system will be strong and sustainable for decades to come. By testing and implementing new ideas to coordinate care, improve patient safety, and reduce waste, fraud, and abuse, the law will continue to create additional savings for consumers and our economy. Analysts predict that by 2019, these efforts could save an additional $2,000 for a family policy for employer-based coverage.

But repeal would allow skyrocketing premiums to continue rising. In fact, the independent Congressional Budget Office’s latest analysis shows that repeal would increase the deficit by $230 billion over the next decade and by more than $1 trillion in the second decade, handing a huge economic burden to the next generation and threatening our long-term prosperity.

The new law gives Americans, and especially young Americans, more freedom in their health-care choices. Taking these benefits and protections away now and abandoning the rest of the law’s long-awaited reforms would have huge costs for the young people we are counting on to help our nation compete and win the future.

Kathleen Sebelius is the U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services.


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