Imagine that you are a student who spends his day like any other. Maybe you stopped at Starbucks on your way home from class, or maybe you’re heading back to your dorm for that long-awaited nap.
But before you get there, you start to feel bad. Over time, you begin to realize that it’s not just a cold or the stomach flu. It’s a pain that calls for an emergency room visit. You plan to go there but one thing is holding you back: you don’t have health insurance.
This is the reality for 14.4% of Americans between the ages of 19 and 25 in the United States, according to the US Census Bureau survey conducted in 2020. This statistic shows that this age group has the highest number of people living without coverage.
Unfortunately, I am one of those people. Since the age of about 12, I have had government-administered health insurance through a program known as Kan Care. It was insurance that my parents had taken out to keep me healthy because they couldn’t afford any more.
This insurance has helped me get checkups, dental appointments, eye checkups and more. However, when children who receive these benefits reach the age of 19, they are no longer eligible for coverage.
It also happens to be around the same time that a freshman begins their journey into higher education.
As I began to navigate college as a first-generation student, I was overwhelmed with expenses. Car payments, auto insurance, tuition, textbooks, and other fees worried me. The only problem was that I still lacked health insurance.
I started looking for resources. Luckily, Emporia State’s Student Welfare Center allows students to get checked in for just $5. Even better, they offer five free counseling sessions per semester.
This has kept me physically and mentally healthy over the past year. However, I can’t help but worry about what I will do if something more serious happens to me that requires more attention than the Wellness Center can provide. The health insurance plans offered by ESU through United Healthcare offer only one health insurance option for undergraduate students. The cost of this insurance is approximately $1,600 per semester.
For this reason, I started researching other health insurance options. During my research, I quickly discovered that even with two part-time jobs, I would barely be able to afford the cheapest plans which were almost the same amount as those offered by United Healthcare.
I was running out of options. I decided to see if I would be eligible to apply for KanCare again as an adult. I applied twice and was refused twice. I was devastated. I thought that, given my self-employed status and my low income, I could benefit from assistance.
After opening the letter, I searched for the reason why I had been refused. Since I am not pregnant, have a dependent, or have a disability, I am not eligible.
Those who have witnessed the cycle of poverty know that it can be extremely difficult to break out of it. It’s easy to get frustrated in this position because those raised in upper-middle-class families usually don’t experience this struggle.
People not using KanCare are allowed to remain on their parent’s medical insurance until age 26, according to the Kansas Department of Insurance. Therefore, I will have the financial stress of health insurance seven years ahead of many of my middle to upper class friends.
Denying health insurance benefits to young adults just because they are “old” sets them up for failure. Many of us work to achieve what our parents couldn’t and it starts with meeting our basic needs before anything else can be accomplished.
No one should have to worry about staying healthy long enough to avoid a hospital or hesitate in an emergency.