On September 23, the day that several provisions of the new health care reform law - the Affordable Care Act - took effect, House Republicans introduced their "Pledge to America" at a hardware store in Virginia. Among their governing ideas? To "repeal and replace" health care reform by gutting many of the key provisions to expand coverage and improve affordability.
Apparently included in their "pledge" is the repeal of coverage for young adults on their parent's plans up to age 26. That is one of the benefits that started on the 23rd, one expected to cover over 2 million young adults at no cost to federal or state budgets.
In fairness to the House Republican leadership, their pledge does suggest leaving intact some of the most basic of health care reform's protections against insurer abuse: dropping us when we get sick or putting unduly restrictive caps on our annual and lifetime benefits. But the Republicans would put the provisions that will actually extend insurance to the nearly 21 million young uninsured on their legislative chopping block. No subsidies for those earning less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level (which is close to 70 percent of our generation). No expansion of Medicaid to over 7 million uninsured young adults. And, apparently, no staying on our parent's insurance until age 26.
Of course, a lot of this is not surprising. Republican leadership has been vigorously anti-reform since the beginning of this debate. But pledging to repeal the expansion of dependent coverage to age 26 would be a significant shift in Republican party policy.
It bears mentioning again that this provision alone will provide insurance to over 2 million 19 to 25 year-olds at zero cost to federal and state budgets: it is an entirely market-driven solution. But it is also an idea Republicans themselves have supported. During the health care debate, allowing young adults under 26 to stay on their parent's insurance was listed in their document "Republicans' Common-Sense Reforms Will LOWER HEALTH CARE COSTS." It was later included in a substitute bill, offered by Representative Mark Kirk (R-IL). The House GOP Solutions Group even touted that the benefit would cover up to seven million uninsured young Americans.
Young adults are not invincible. We get sick. We get hurt. We need health care. Fifteen percent of our generation suffers from chronic conditions. We access emergency room care on account of injury more than any other age group. Because so many of us are uninsured, our health needs - from preventive to life threatening - often go unmet. And the cost of our 'uninsurance' can be devastating to our families, career paths and life plans.
Going into the last weeks of an already hyper-partisan election season, the health insurance of young Americans and all Americans should be beyond partisanship. That is why we at Young Invincibles sent a letter to House Republican leadership asking them to clarify their position and to state on record whether they are, in fact, turning their backs on the over 2 million young adults who, as of last week, can now access coverage.
Here is the letter. We are waiting to hear back.