For the nearly two million college seniors across the country, this spring will be one of the most intimidating, stressful and exciting points in their lives. Years of hard work in the classroom will finally be rewarded in the form of a diploma. Some will choose to continue their education. Some will submit their resumes to job openings, working tirelessly to secure work. Some will be fortunate enough to begin their careers immediately after walking across the graduation stage. However, no one will have to fear losing their health insurance.
One year ago, I found myself in the same whirlwind the Class of 2012 is now absorbed in. I began the process of submitting my resume to numerous organizations. As I started the interview process, I reflected on which path would be the best way forward in my efforts to advocate for those who did not have a voice in their society. Whether it was in the field of communications, grassroots activism, or other non-profit career paths, my first venture into the professional realm post-college would undoubtedly shape the rest of my life. This was a decision that would not weigh lightly on me.
When I found out I had been accepted as a NETWORK Lobby Associate in March 2011, there was no hesitation in my acceptance of the position. This is exactly where I needed to be. Their work was inspiring and shaped the lives of millions of people across the country. Every day, I would be able to work alongside a dedicated staff who would not be idle in the midst of a gridlocked climate that ignored the needs of people in poverty.
Had I graduated a year beforehand, I would not have had this opportunity.
If the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act had not been signed into law on March 23, 2010, I could have faced a three-month gap in health coverage, as NETWORK’s Associate Program begins on September 1. This provision in the law allows me to stay covered under my parents’ insurance coverage until the age of 26, and now over 2.5 million young adults find themselves with health coverage.
Without healthcare reform, I would have considered other job options first and foremost because maintaining my healthcare coverage would have been a priority. Because I was able to stay under my parents’ health insurance coverage, I was secure in choosing the path that I felt compelled to take based not on health insurance, but on what career would allow me to advocate for issues I care about.
For young adults like myself, this is a personal and moral issue. I’m also not alone in this essential benefit. Before the act passed, 40% of all the uninsured came from the youth population between the ages of 18 and 34. My fellow Associates also understand the moral importance of protecting the law.
“I am so grateful to be able to stay on my parents’ insurance. Individual policies are very expensive compared to group plans, and since I am working a public interest job, paying the lower premium on my parents’ plan has allowed me to stretch my tight finances. I’ll be going to graduate school in the fall, and the ACA prevents me from being uncovered between the end of my job and the beginning of school, as well as preventing the disruption of switching to the school’s insurance plan. Additionally, unlike my older brothers, I am fortunate to not have to face the uncertainty of not having health insurance during transitional phases from college to the workplace, or while changing employers. My oldest brother had to keep switching insurers, choosing from pricey individual policies that didn’t provide sufficient coverage. Ultimately, without the ACA, young adults who are not at the height of their earning potential are put in a difficult spot.” –Claire Wheeler, NETWORK Lobby Associate
“It is a blessing to not have to worry about having healthcare when my associate program here at NETWORK wraps up later this year. If I was not able to stay under my parents’ insurance while I looked for my next career move, whether it be a new job or a graduate school program, it would be a much more challenging time in my life if I had to worry about how to afford the medical services I rely on.” –Matt Shuster, NETWORK Field Associate.
As the Supreme Court debates the constitutionality of the healthcare coverage, we must think of the wellbeing of all those who would not have coverage today without the Affordable Care Act.
We must think of the three-year-old who would not have coverage after her fifth birthday  because it would be too expensive. We must think of the college graduate struggling to find a job, unable to visit a doctor because he was unable to stay on his parents’ insurance coverage. We must think of the child denied health insurance because of a condition she was born with. We must think of marginalized families living just above the poverty level who will now have affordable access to healthcare. We must think of the common good, and what it says of our society if the law is overturned.