Treat Me to a Colonoscopy? Why, Thank You!

Cynthia Dermody
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blood pressure gauge
Flickr photo by House of Sims
There aren't many benefits to getting older these days, but here's one: With the passage of health care reform and new restrictions on insurance companies charging premiums based on age, young people will shoulder a greater chunk of the cost for older folks.

One estimate says uninsured people in their 20s and 30s, who must look out for themselves and buy private health care or get a spanking pay a penalty, will cough up 30 percent more than they do now -- other analyses put the cost increase at upward of 50 percent.

It's about $42 bucks a month more, according to a report by the bipartisan Rand Health for the Associated Press. That's dinner and a movie. Half a week's groceries. A tank of gas. Four manicures. An end-of-the-year vacation.

Big deal or no? You tell me ...

The way our current system works, insurers charge older people more for insurance because they get sick and need drugs and use health care more. Young people only go to the doctor when they need a physical to join a gym or to refill their birth control pills, so insurers  currently charge them a lot less.

Under the new law, insurers can only charge older people up to three times as much as the young, as opposed to the gazillion times more they are charging them now. Come four years from now, when all this new reform is in full effect, who will make up the gazillions of difference? The yungins.

Some say the new benefits given young people in the plan outweigh the extra costs they'll be forced to pay:

  • Many young adults up to age 26 should be eligible for coverage under Mommy and Daddy's insurance, if their parents have insurance that provides dependent coverage.
  • Tax credits will be available for people of certain income levels, but it's unclear yet how much they'll reduce the costs.
  • Low-income singles without children will be covered for the first time by Medicaid, which some estimate will insure 9 million more young adults.

And here's another one: Someday, this young group of payers will get old and sick too! And then it will be my daughter and the rest of the current crop of preschoolers' turn to carry the burden. Speaking of which, when I went to collect her the other day, I walked in on the teacher repeating that "make sure you share" mantra to a group wrangling over who gets to use the rest of the pink paint for their picture. Now more than ever, it's a good thing we're starting them early.

Are you fine with paying more for health care that you don't even use, or are you cool with the "what comes around goes around" philosophy?

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