No jobs, no insurance: hard times for young adults

July 21, 2009 By CARLA K. JOHNSON , AP Medical Writer
Emily Weinstein looks up while making jewelry at her home Monday, July 20, 2009, in Portland, Ore. Graduating from college into an economic meltdown, 23-year-old Weinstein hasn't been able to make much money, which has put health insurance out of reach. Already the least likely of any age group to have coverage, adults in their 20s face brutal job searches and more time uninsured because of the recession. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

(AP) -- Emily Weinstein graduated from college into an economic meltdown, and as a self-employed jewelry maker she'll be lucky to bring in $16,000 this year.

Heath insurance is out of reach, so she avoids thinking about what would happen if she got sick, was hurt in a traffic accident or was severely burned while making a silver necklace in her home studio.

"Would I have to declare bankruptcy at age 23 or would my parents have to bail me out?" asked Weinstein, of Portland, Ore. "What would I do?"

Like millions of other uninsured adults in their 20s, Weinstein is watching Congress as it advances legislation to overhaul health care. The recession has deepened young adults' career struggles. It has also sharpened their interest in .

Already the least likely of any age group to have coverage, adults in their 20s face brutal job searches and more time uninsured because of the recession. Nearly 30 percent, 13.2 million, were uninsured in 2007, according to the Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based research center. Many young adults work entry-level jobs without insurance and, despite new laws in some states, they're eventually too old to stay on their parents' policies.

Ben Brenner, now 23, couldn't find work in finance, his preferred field. After a four-month search, he took a part-time job for a small real estate agency in Deerfield, Ill., for an hourly rate and no health benefits.

He was able to stay insured as a dependent on his stepmother's plan until December. Then he went without insurance briefly. Now he has a $5,000 deductible he calls "absurdly high" and pays $53 a month through a plan designed for young adults. He "felt relieved knowing I had an insurance card in my wallet."

He supports the Obama administration's push to cover more Americans and lower the cost of health care, but is unsure how he feels about tax increases to pay for it. He's in favor of requiring everyone to have health insurance.

"I think it should be mandatory to have insurance because if you're uninsured and you go to the hospital, the taxpayers are footing the bill anyway," he said.

A June survey for the Kaiser Family Foundation found young adults don't vary much from their elders in views on health care, said public opinion researcher Mollyann Brodie of Kaiser.

But twentysomethings were nearly twice as likely as senior citizens to say they would be "better off" if President Barack Obama and Congress reformed the health care system. People in their 20s were more likely than senior citizens to say they would be willing to pay more so that more Americans could be insured. The nationally representative random sample of 1,205 adults was conducted by land line and cell phone by Princeton Survey Research Associates.

Some features in the health care plans working their way through Congress would benefit young adults. Depending on their income, they could qualify for subsidies on insurance premiums or, for the poorest, expansion of Medicaid. One plan allows them to stay on their parents' policies until age 26.

Some young adults learn about insurance the hard way.

Nursing student Sarah Posekany is only 27, but she's already filed for bankruptcy because of colon surgery when she was uninsured. She still owes thousands of dollars in medical bills.

"It's not fair," said Posekany of Cedar Falls, Iowa. "We should learn how to be a strong nation and take care of everybody."

Posekany now has insurance but must wait a year for her pre-existing condition to be covered.

Katie Miletti, 24, is a full-time college student studying to work with disabled preschoolers. A survivor of childhood cancer, she still deals with the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy. After she became too old for coverage under her mother's policy, she was uninsured about a month before qualifying for Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for the needy and disabled.

"Everyone should have health insurance," said Miletti, who lives in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. "I don't think it should matter what your health problems are, how rich you are, or what your income is."

The insurance industry terms this age group "the young invincibles" because many of them think they'll never get sick or hurt.

Nick Bernstein used to feel that way. Marking time during the recession, he worked as a waiter with a plan to pay off college loans and get a graduate degree in wine production. Leisure time was filled with backpacking, mountain climbing and snowboarding.

On April 1, at Stevens Pass, Wash., near Seattle, he hit a rock while snowboarding and landed hard, breaking his collarbone and separating his shoulder.

In the ambulance, Bernstein told the paramedics he didn't know if he had insurance. Luckily, he was still covered under his stepfather's plan, so the bill for the first $27,000 surgery didn't fall solely to him.

But his coverage may end before he's well. Doctors recently diagnosed a staph infection. Temporarily unable to work, he needs to figure out how to get insurance when he turns 25 in November and is dropped from his stepfather's policy.

When this age group buys insurance, they often opt for cheaper monthly premiums with high deductibles. But those deductibles, paid out of pocket before coverage kicks in, can lead them to avoid care, experts say.

Joe San Roman, 26, of Agoura Hills, Calif., nursed a broken wrist with shots of tequila through the night so he wouldn't have to pay for an emergency room visit. He's insured, but has a $1,500 deductible. He waited until morning when he could get treatment in a visit to his doctor's office.

"I didn't want to have to drop $1,500," he said.

At age 28, Holly Brown's adulthood has been shaped by the . Laid off from a job she'd held for four years, she's been unable to find other work.

"I told my mom I might have to marry somebody for their health insurance," said Brown of Round Lake, Ill., who has a chronic lung condition. She's managed to stay on her company's health plan through the government COBRA program. COBRA allows workers to keep their insurance for 18 months after they leave jobs if they pay the premiums, which can be steep.

Congress is considering extending COBRA eligibility even longer. Already approved are federal subsidies to lower COBRA premiums for some laid-off workers; Brown qualified for one. And, her 85-year-old grandfather stepped up to pay the remaining amount.

"When I got the check from my grandfather, I cried," she said.

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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5 / 5 (1) Jul 22, 2009
They voted in the most left socialist president in the history of the united states that has pushed the deficits to astronomical levels, and pummeled the wealthy and the investors whose capital (ie profits) would have gone to expansion and hiring the young and so forth.

the command economy has trashed over 3 million jobs that were established. how does this young person feel when the quantity of jobs is so low they are competing with experienced people desperate and willing to take an entry salary.

Ultimately, when they are old they will realize that they were the third generation that finalized the end of the american experiment forever. unable to understand the incompetence and inability of socialism, they have destroyed and hated the very system they were depending on for their future.

Obama is insuring that these will vote for him again, because they have no other choice to survive.

Why these kids wanted feudal oligarcy, fascism, or communism is beyond me. but they got what they wanted, now they are going to have to live with it cause there is no way to turn it back.

someone should have told them that you cant be half pregnant and you cant turn a cucumber into a pickle.

reminds me of the old country...
not rated yet Jul 22, 2009
It called brainwashing, most of my generation was caught up in the propaganda machine Obama made. With a media at his fingertips him and rest of the Democratic leadership was able to have control of Congress and Presidency. Let hope most of people start see the problems of socialism soon or future of this country is grimmer. Just hope someone get tort reform and government regulation that impedes the health care from working. Alas, I find that unlikely with those around me.
not rated yet Jul 22, 2009
Gee, the story of these kids doesn't sound any different than when I was in my early 20s. I usually worked two jobs to just barely get by, and if my employer didn't provide insurance, I didn't have any. Couldn't afford it. And premiums were affordable back then! So are kids these days REALLY suffering any more than we used to two or three decades ago? Or do they now feel they are entitled to this luxury thing called "paid health insurance?" Young adults will willingly go deep into debt to get a shiny brand new car, but scream having to pay a few thousand dollars for medical expenses. I have no problem with going to socialized health care if it will work for the nation, but feeling you are entitled to free medical care is not right.
not rated yet Jul 23, 2009
they: when you were in your 20s the minimum wage wasnt higher than the marginal value of your labor.

Doughboy: like in germany, the youth hated the old people and by turning agains them, they turned to their own doom. just like the young today.

it is already too late to turn it back... read the history that you didnt read because they didnt tell you to. you will find some extreemly salient parallels if your not looking for exact matches.

you will find eugenics is now abortion
action 4 the rationing of care to the old (which preceeded action 14 the final solution) is in the health care discussion and bill.

the word nazi is slang for nationalizer..

hitler nationalized the banks like obama
he also natinoalized the major auto industry, and declared what cars would be made, like volkswagons, or feul efficiency now.
he created political power outside the normal framwork, like the 16 Czars (who in this case have expressed much of the same totalitarian popuilation control ideas of that prior time).
hitler was from austria
stalin was from georgia
is obama from another place technically? cant say, a colb is not a birth cert, so maybe later.

hitler was anti smoking, and very much into social engineering programs (ie experimenting on the lives of people in masses by changing social or legal or taxation policies).

he had a youth corps like obama says he is building.

you can go on and on and on...

but no one will see the parallels...

they are waiting for black suited thugs to beat their door down, they dont realize that we will first go at each other which then will justify the black suited thugs later.

i am sorry to say doughboy that if it does go, the whole world will go with it, for it would create a man who has the ideals of stalin with the war machines of the modern US.

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