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For the young and ‘invincible,’ health insurance is a must

REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi
We aren’t invincible. Being covered can be the difference between life and death.

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.

Raha Assadi-Lamouki

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.

Think again

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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Comments (15)

  1. Submitted by Steven Bailey on 03/27/2014 - 09:06 am.

    A very difficult decision for young people

    I am very glad your brother got care and had coverage under your parents policy. The risk of cancer in young adults is extremely low the most likely risk of death or injury is in a car accident. Young people are almost all covered by auto insurance if that occurs. Insurance is covering risk and nothing more. When looking at a young person’s overall life, is buying insurance in there early twenties more important than reliable transportation, a safe place to live or paying off student debt. Applying the limited amount of money most young people have to a product they most likely will not need is a tough choice. If they have to borrow money to buy insurance and make ends meet it will most likely do much more harm than not having insurance for a couple of years. My wife and I were faced with the same choice years ago and we chose not to cover me because of the cost. I even broke a vertebrae during that time in a fall. It got better without seeing a doctor. Getting ahead on student loans was worth the sore back. The ACA is a deeply flawed law that relies on young people subsidizing the program and it is not fair to them. So there is no misunderstanding. I voted for Obama in 2008, I knocked doors for Wellstone, I fully support single-payer and I think the ACA ia a terrible solution to the affordable healthcare problem.

  2. Submitted by Steve Rose on 03/27/2014 - 09:11 am.

    “… it’s going to help keep all of our premiums low,”

    Some interesting excerpts from this recent Strib Report:

    “MNsure chief Scott Leitz announced a series of outreach events for the coming week aimed at young adults, including sign-ups at popular Twin Cities bars and at campuses statewide.”

    “MNsure officials hope that will improve as the deadline approaches, but Leitz said they haven’t set specific enrollment goals for that age group.”

    “it’s important for young people to have health insurance coverage, but it’s going to be important for all of us that young people are covered because it’s going to help keep all of our premiums low,” he said, pointing to the fact that young people typically need less health care than older participants.

    So, MNsure doesn’t have a goal for signing up young people, but they will be at the popular bars this weekend getting it done. MNsure admits that they need the young people because they pay premiums but are less likely to make claims. They are not too young to get accustomed to paying for other people’s healthcare.

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 03/27/2014 - 12:45 pm.

      I would suppose, then, you are against auto insurance, too,…

      …as it involves getting accustomed to paying for other people’s car accidents ? This would also apply to life insurance, as obviously you’ll be paying for someone else’s death, too. Liability insurance as well, because then you’ll be paying for someone else’s negligence. Fire insurance works the same way, Mr. Rose, and you’ll be outraged to learn that you’re paying for someone else’s fire in your fire policy.

      In fact, it would seem if you’re going to hate one kind of insurance, you might as well hate them all, as they all have this same disease, which is that you, Steve Rose, have to pay for things that happen to other people !! Never mind whether it’s for the common good, or even for YOUR good.

      Whereas the “me, me, me” point of view looks only at whether the “me” is getting his money’s worth from insurance, regardless of what type it is, it is true that one of the basic concepts behind insurance is that risk is pooled in a larger group. This allows costs and benefits to be apportioned across the group. It turns out to be very economical for individuals in the group.

      • Submitted by Steven Bailey on 03/27/2014 - 02:11 pm.

        Flawed Logic

        Auto Insurance is not the same as health insurance. A young person buying auto insurance is purchasing a product that covers them and their passengers equally as much anyone else in the current insurance pool. A young person buying health insurance is really paying for a product that statistically they will not use much and will cover the premiums of older people in the pool. All insurance is not the same. Forcing or coercing young people to buy a product that they will likely not use to pay for another group that will likely use it is not insurance, it is a subsidy and it is not fair. I am in my fifties.

        • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 03/27/2014 - 03:32 pm.

          Auto insurance or other examples are not about the young,…

          …they are about pooling and sharing risk, which is the plane on which all insurance types are the same.

          You might say – using your language, but substituting only a few key words – that a good driver buying auto insurance “…is really paying for a product that statistically they will not use much and will cover the premiums of,,,” bad drivers “…in the pool.”

          How is mandatory auto insurance not a “subsidy” in the same sense as you characterize health insurance – i.e., the good drivers, through their mandated premiums, subsidize the expenses caused to the insurance company by the bad drivers ??

      • Submitted by Steve Rose on 03/27/2014 - 02:14 pm.

        Did you read my comment? It consisted mainly of quotes from MNsure chief Scott Leitz, followed by a single observation.

        I’m not against healthcare insurance, nor auto insurance, nor life insurance, nor fire insurance, nor liability insurance, nor have I made any statements against insurance or being insured. I presently am insured in all of those areas. Thank you for the explanation of how insurance works.

        A link to another article regarding MNsure’s request for the young, “Insurance with your beer? MNsure courts young uninsured on their turf”


        “MNsure may be focusing on young people’s financial health, but the push for young people has a direct bearing on the financial health of the state’s commercial insurance market. Premiums paid by young healthy people help pay for the care of older, sicker people.”

        “C’mon young people, we need you more than you need us” That is a hard sell; you had better buy them a beer.

        • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 03/27/2014 - 03:55 pm.

          Yes, indeed I did read it, but what caught my eye was…

          …your “They are not too young to get accustomed to paying for other people’s healthcare.”

          The thing is, we were already paying for other people’s health care before the ACA. The uninsured’s medical bills mostly got paid by some public entity or other, and ended up coming out of the taxpayer’s pocket – and greatly inflated due to its deferral, using emergency rooms, etc. So paying for someone else’s health care is not something new.

          And, as you are well aware, ALL insurance can be viewed as an individual paying for other’s expenses, and can be framed as an unfair burden. Yet some insurance IS mandated, for the common good. The mandate for health insurance is definitely for the common good.

          No offense intended. The quote above sounded like one of those conservative talking points against the mandate of the ACA, but if I mistook it, my apology.

          • Submitted by Steve Rose on 03/27/2014 - 04:44 pm.

            What this article and commentary are about …

            What this article and commentary are about is signing up the young and uninsured. They are not paying for anyone else’s healthcare insurance. It will be a tough sell to get them on board, as they have higher priorities for their money.

  3. Submitted by mark wallek on 03/27/2014 - 09:44 am.

    A must what?

    Rather than the healthcare, it’s the monetary obligation, and where that money goes that is so unsettling. The basic healthcare, or “bronze” level, is very basic, and very expensive at 350+ a month plus whatever additional charges if you actually need to use a doctor. The plan as it exists is not about providing healthcare to the nations’ citizens. That is only the superficial appearance. It’s really about profits going where they have gone all along. If the plan was so wonderful, you’d think that one doctor or nurse I saw in my time of surgery would have had something to say that was positive. That did not happen. If we were really serious about having a healthy and educated nation, which we are not, we would not have capitalized them, shunted the obese profit into private pockets, and called this a win. We would have adopted a single payer system if we were serious, but that failed because too many players would be left off the teat.

    • Submitted by Joey Senkyr on 03/27/2014 - 11:34 am.

      $350 a month?

      Anecdotes aren’t data, of course, but I’m a male in my early 20s, and when I looked into my options on MnSure, I was seeing ~$140 a month for Bronze plans. Even Gold plans weren’t more than $275/month. $140 is still a big expense for recent grads with student loans to pay off, but, in my experience at least, it’s not nearly as bad as you make it out to be.

  4. Submitted by jody rooney on 03/27/2014 - 10:54 am.

    This is a good story to share

    Young people are not exempt from serious adverse and expensive health conditions or significant accidents.

    If have to have some insurance to drive a car why not health care insurance. The argument is the same. If you have no insurance it costs the rest of us money because should you become an emergency case the hospitals recover their costs from the other patients insurance.

  5. Submitted by Lori Bremner on 03/27/2014 - 04:37 pm.

    I too was invincible . . .

    I too was invincible on the 4th day after my 20th birthday.

    On the 5th day after my 20th birthday, I was in the hospital with leukemia. I’m so thankful for the sake of my family that I was insured.

    I’m so thankful that now, because of Obamacare, I can never be denied insurance because I am a cancer survivor!

    Thanks for sharing your brother’s story, Raha. And yes, I think he (and I) ARE lucky!!

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 03/28/2014 - 07:52 pm.

      I am so glad for your luck – and it is luck (!!) – in contrast..

      …to the MILLIONS who for years were denied coverage, or had their coverage limited or selectively excluded, due to their pre-existing conditions. In your case, assuming your coverage was not within a large employment group, if anything interrupted your coverage under that insurance, you might have found on re-application that your app was denied, rated up, or limited in its benefits. These are now things of the past due to the ACA.

      I know about these things on a practical level, as years ago, I sold health insurance.

      There was a particular rider that health care agents wryly referred to as “the skin and contents rider”. This rider was issued in cases where cardiovascular disease was a pre-existing condition. If a policy was offered at all, it would exclude all conditions related to the cardiovascular system. You might wonder what kind of conditions would have nothing to do with the cardiovascular system ?? That was the joke !! In the agents’ vernacular, the policy would cover EVERYTHING EXCEPT the skin and its contents. Black humor indeed, but it quite accurately expressed the spirit of the limitations on coverage.

      You were lucky indeed !! I had contact in those days with a lot of people not so lucky.

  6. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 03/28/2014 - 10:15 am.


    For the people who complain about the younger set being required to get insurance, think of it this way: it’s a down payment. Sure, they may not need the insurance right this very moment, but they will. The couple hundred bucks they spend today will sure come in handy a few years from now when they get a disease, an injury, or have a child.

    Looking at a service as something that is only useful today is not very good long term planning. We will all need health care at some point in our lives and it’s best to be prepared for that eventuality.

    Personally, I would much rather see a single payer universal government run system as that would be the most cost effective. No co-pays, no bills–all taken care of. But maybe we can get that going in the next round of health care reform.

    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 03/28/2014 - 04:50 pm.


      There were no complaints in this discussion about the younger set being required to get insurance. I, for one, am all for it. The challenge is getting them to do it, and covering the healthcare expenses of the older set when they don’t.

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