The Washington Post reports on the latest trend in health insurance mandates -- the "slacker mandate":
"In the past two years, 17 states have passed laws that let young adults stay on the family policy until their mid-20s. New age limits range from 24 in Delaware, Indiana and South Dakota, to 30 in New Jersey. Eleven states settled on age 25, according to the Commonwealth Fund, which conducts health research.
"Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has also picked up on the trend. Part of his health platform would let young people up to age 25 continue coverage through their parents' plans."
It was nice to see that the article actually included decent coverage of the problems with such a mandate:
"The insurance industry says the extensions cause insurers to pay for care that consumers previously paid for out of their own pockets. When insurers have to pay more claims, they eventually have to raise premiums to cover those claims. For the most part, employers bear the added cost.
"Mohit Ghose, a spokesman for America's Health Insurance Plans, said it's too soon to know how much insurance costs went up in states that extended eligibility for dependent coverage. When evaluating the additional requirements, he said, each one by itself amounts to a small increase in the cost of a policy, usually adding less than 1 percent. But, eventually, those mandates add up, and they can price health coverage out of range for some employers and their workers, he said...
"J.P. Wieske, the council's director of state affairs, said that staying on a parent's policy could come back to haunt young adults who develop serious health conditions. Once they develop a serious condition, like Thomas Mahoney did with epilepsy, they'll find it almost impossible to get insurance. But if they get their own health insurance before the problem hits, they'll have coverage that cannot be terminated."
The only way to address this problem, in my view, is to allow health insurers the freedom to design insurance that will appeal to young people. As the article points out, "Plans targeting young adults tend to cost less because those age 19-23 generate about $1,500 in medical expenses a year compared with $3,200 for those 30-49 or $6,300 for those 50-64."
For many young people, though, going without health insurance is a smart thing to do. Even with affordable plans, many will choose to go without. I say that as a person who chose that myself. I lost health insurance when I was 19 because my father lost his job and our family had no insurance. Because my college had an "insurance mandate" (you had to show proof of health insurance when you registered) I purchased my own. It was pretty cheap and I could afford it, but soon I began to think of how often I'd visited the doctor in my life (very rarely) and how much I was paying for my monthly premiums, I decided it wasn't a good deal, so I canceled it. I didn't have health insurance for the next two-and-a-half years. It was a very good decision because I didn't use any health care services during that time (and I have rarely used any since).
I don't think my attitude is unique, which means that no matter how affordable insurance is, some people will not see the value in it. I don't know of any public policy solution for that.