The big question about the Affordable Care Act seems to be whether young people will enroll in a health plan. The theory is that young adults believe that they’re invincible and don’t need health care. Well, I’m one of those young adults who already has learned how important it is to be covered.
My brother is 20 years old and a three-time cancer survivor. He had a malignant brain tumor when he was just 9 years old that required surgery, intense radiation, chemotherapy, and a summer stuck in the hospital. Five years later, he was diagnosed with lymphoma, cancer of the body’s immune system cells. After treatment, we thought he was in the clear, but we were devastated once again just a year later when we found out he had leukemia, cancer of the white blood cells. Once again, treatment was very rough, but he survived cancer for the third time.
Lucky to be insured
You might say my brother has been unlucky, but he has also been incredibly fortunate. At every phase of his battles with cancer, he was covered by the plan my mom has through work. That coverage gave him access to the doctors, specialists, and treatments he needed to fight his cancer. Had he been uninsured or covered by a flimsy health care plan, he might not be alive today.
New American Cancer Society research shows that having health insurance can increase one’s chances of beating cancer. In fact, uninsured young men are 1.5 times as likely as those with insurance to be diagnosed with late-stage cancer, which is harder to treat and survive. Uninsured young women are nearly twice as likely as those with insurance to be diagnosed with advanced cancer.
Fortunately, the Affordable Care Act makes it easier to access and afford quality health coverage. People without insurance can visit their state’s online exchange, where they can compare the coverage offered by various health plans and buy one for themselves. The plans all have to cover essential benefits needed to treat a disease such as cancer. And financial help is available to make insurance more affordable.
The law also guarantees that people are not refused coverage or charged far higher premiums than others just because they have had cancer or another pre-existing condition. Best of all for my brother and me, the law allows us to stay on mom’s insurance plan until we’re 26.
My brother is now a sophomore at the University of Minnesota. I used to worry that he and other cancer survivors would never find health insurance on their own after college, or would only be able to afford limited coverage that didn’t meet their needs. Now I don’t have to worry. Having cancer or even a condition such as acne no longer means you can’t afford coverage.
And to my peers who think they don’t need health insurance, I say think again. We aren’t invincible. Being covered can be the difference between life and death.
Raha Assadi-Lamouki is a first-year law student at William Mitchell College of Law and has been a volunteer for the American Cancer Society since junior high school.
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