Why Young People Need to Understand Health Insurance: Losing My Health Insurance in College and What I Learned
Health insurance was something that I took for granted. I worked in financial counseling in a hospital, my parents made sure my brother and I knew that having insurance was essential, and I always had coverage. I understood how blessed I was to have good health insurance growing up as a pediatric patient learning to thrive amidst a handful of chronic health conditions. The care and support that I had access to changed the trajectory of my adolescent years and inspired me to pursue a career in medicine.
Managing your health, whether it is good or bad, is a challenge, especially in college. As a first-generation college student, I struggled to navigate my way through my science degree, even with the correct medications and support system.
Around my junior year of college, I lost my health insurance unexpectedly and, as a result, my clinical support system. If I was working with a patient who was going through the same thing, I would have presented them with a plan of action, outlined options available following a change-of-life event, and help them identify the steps to get covered.
But when it happened to me, I couldn’t think.
The physical, mental, emotional, and academic toll of managing my health without the proper medication or support for a full year until open enrollment was insurmountable. Sadly enough, all this was avoidable.
People lean into conversations about health insurance the older they get because their insurance needs are changing. They become eligible for Medicare, they need to pick a Medicare Part D plan, and they need to understand their health benefits in retirement and so much more. Young people need to learn about their coverage too because insurance is just as confusing when you’re young as when you get older.
Is my job’s plan better than my parents’? What happens after I turn 26? Am I eligible for Medicare before 65 if I have a chronic condition? What’s the deal with my student plan?
Sometimes, life happens and you have to learn lessons the hard way. Understanding that having health insurance is important should not be one of them. The National Patient Advocate Foundation (NPAF) offers a multitude of resources to help answer some of the questions you have about coverage all year round.
Losing my health insurance in one of the most stressful seasons of my life made me realize the importance of access and affordability of care. Health insurance is attainable, you just need some good guidance to help you find the best plan for you, at any age!
Nichole Davis, BCPA is a NPAF volunteer and resident of Ohio.