Premiums from 'young invincibles' key to Affordable Care Act

Credit: WFAA

The Affordable Care Act needs healthy, low-risk college students to participate in order to keep health insurance rates low for all Americans.

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on September 30, 2013 at 10:29 AM

FORT WORTH -- Jeffery Fawcett is the ideal candidate for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

Fawcett is a college student, young, and healthy.

"Honestly,” he said, “I haven't been to the doctor in 15 years."

That’s exactly the sort of person the government needs to pay into the system. In order for the government to help cover the costs of the sick, countless healthy people who rarely use the system will need to pay deductibles.

With 51,000 students, Tarrant County Community College is the state's sixth-largest university. Many of the students are non-traditional and may not be covered by their parents' insurance. The Affordable Care Act allows for people to be covered by their parents' policy until they reach age 26.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said community colleges will be targeted for enrollment. Tarrant County College says they were contacted about a week before enrollment, but there is no plan yet on how to reach out to students.

The Government Accounting Office estimates about 1.7 million traditional-age college students are uninsured. Two-thirds of young adults can't afford treatment, according to the GAO.

Yet many students don't know they're required to have insurance under the new law. If they don't get insurance, they'll be penalized, like every other citizen.

"So, in other words, we get penalized for not being able to pay for insurance, and at the same time the only reason we have to pay for insurance is to pay for the next person?" asked  Deontae Smith. “That's crazy."

Smith is the first in his family to graduate high school and attend college. But it doesn't take books, he said, to tell him the Affordable Care Act may be a bad deal for him.

Young people can sign up for a plan that covers catastrophic care only. That plan is only available to citizens under the age of 30.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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