Approximately 900,000 people in New Jersey don’t have health insurance, according to Alescia Teel, the communications lead for the New Jersey chapter of Enroll America.
“That is a big number of people, and our focus is trying to reach as many as those 900,000 people as we can and help them get educated,” Teel said.
Researchers and educators from different nonprofit organizations across the country have been working to communicate with millions of uninsured Americans and inform them on the Affordable Care Act, the country’s new healthcare reform law. Enroll America, a national nonpartisan organization, has been extending its services to young adults and students, since they can be covered by the law.
Representatives of New Jersey’s chapter have visited institutions including Union County College, Camden County College, Montclair State University and TCNJ. They have spread their message to other public places as well.
“We’ve been at bus stops, Laundromats, churches, synagogues, food stores … Our mission is to bring information to people where they are,” Teel said. While the Affordable Care Act presents benefits to adults who enroll for insurance, it also presents benefits to children and young adults, including students of the College. For instance, young adults can be insured under their parents’ health plan until they are 26. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, insurance companies could once remove children from their plan when they turned 19.
Children covered under their parents’ plan can also have a pre-existing condition now. According to the ACA, health plans can no longer deny benefits or coverage for a child younger than age 19 because of a health problem he or she developed before joining the plan, a core motivation for passing the ACA in 2009.
Sophomore political science major Symone Yancey is signed up under her parents’ health plan, and she is very satisfied with it.
“It is nice to know that I am taken care of in that respect through law school,” Yancey said. “It lets me focus on other things, like my grades.”
According to sophomore accounting major Julie Ciak, 26 may be a little too old for someone to be covered under their parents’ plan.
“I can’t say I am aware of the specific ramifications for insurance companies, healthcare and the economy regarding this change,” said Ciak, who is also enrolled under her parents’ plan. “But 26 offhand seems very old to me, compared to something more reasonable, such as 23, for students who may just be obtaining full-time jobs.”
What about those students, though, who are not insured under their parents’ health plan? They can enroll for their own health insurance, according to the ACA. Half of adults ages 18 to 34 who are eligible to purchase insurance on the marketplace could get covered for $50 a month or less, which is less than what students pay for their phone bill or even gas.
Even students who just graduated from an institution and are not committed to an employer can be insured.
“If you’re a freelance writer, you can be covered,” Teel said. “In the past, you didn’t have that ability.”
Junior political science major Nick Simonelli said that while the monthly premiums would be low, a trip to the doctor’s office could be costly as a result.
“I think this low fee sounds like a great idea, but it might increase out-of-pocket costs and co-pays,” Simonelli said. “However, it’s still better than paying the mandatory fee for people who choose not to purchase health insurance.”
While the March 31 deadline of enrolling for insurance has passed, students will have another opportunity in November to enroll for 2015. They can also enroll by visiting healthcare.gov or by dialing a toll-free number that will direct them to the Health Insurance Marketplace.
However, if students are not insured under their parents or do not have student health insurance with the College, they would have to pay a fee each month they are without insurance.
For this reason, Teel and representatives of Enroll America are reaching out to students in multiple ways to inform them on the ACA. Students are able to follow the organization on Twitter at GetCoveredNJ or GetCoveredUS, as well as other social networks. According to Teel, celebrities are also pushing for young adults to enroll through their Twitter handles.
“T.I., Mindy Kaling, Janelle Monae and other huge names are giving their voice and emphasizing the importance of ACA and why it matters for young people,” she said.
According to Yancey, the negative opinions people have about the healthcare law hinder them from taking an in-depth look at it.
“I definitely think that more people should be aware, because ignorance is one of the biggest reasons people oppose ObamaCare,” Yancey said. “You can’t support what you don’t understand or even bother to think about.”
Teel said that it’s important for young adults to think ahead when it comes to considering health insurance.
“Everyone needs healthcare because anyone can have an accident,” Teel said. “If you have a broken arm and are uninsured, it could cost you $7,000 in the emergency room. We all have to get started somewhere.”