Gen Z Healthcare is Trash…No Cap!

Did you recently turn 26? Get kicked off your parents’ insurance? Have you been scrolling through your state’s healthcare exchange website, wondering if it would just be cheaper to crawl into a hole and die? Have we got the episode for you!

We’re sitting down today with Lisa Giordano, Executive Director of the Association of Young Americans (AYA), to discuss the often overlooked healthcare crisis faced by young American workers. AYA is a membership-based, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization by and for young people. The AYA advocates at the federal level to advance policies and legislation important to younger generations. They are part of the national Medicare for All Coalition, with Healthcare-NOW and many other allies.


Show Notes

Unlike previous generations that entered the workforce after college and pretty quickly found a good job with generous benefits, young adults today are surviving as part of the gig and service economies, with lower pay , less stability and less access to employer paid benefits. They also left college with far more debt than their parents did. Gen Z is defined as anyone born between about 1996 and 2021, so they are just starting to turn 26 and can no longer stay on their parents’ healthcare.

As young adults age out of their parents’ health insurance, many go without coverage. In 2019, adults aged 19-34 had the highest uninsured rate of any age group in the US (15.6%, compared to 5.7% for those under 19, 11.3% for adults ages 35 to 64, and 0.8% for individuals 65 and older). 26-year-olds have the nation’s highest uninsured rate among all single years of age, followed by 17.5% of 27-year-olds.

Cheaper, “catastrophic” health care plans are often marketed to young people because they’re healthier and “don’t need” comprehensive plans. This is flawed thinking, of course. Young people can have chronic illnesses, disabilities, accidents, pregnancies, and other serious health conditions, putting them at risk of incurring huge medical debts. In addition, young adulthood is often when patients experience the onset of many serious mental health conditions and substance use disorder, the rates of which have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The opposition at the Partnership for America’s Healthcare Future (made up of the hospital, insurance and pharma industries and Chambers of Commerce) attacks Medicare for All, using the “one size fits all” narrative to persuade young people to oppose M4A based on the assumption that they’re healthy and don’t need comprehensive health coverage. Young folks should have the “choice” to buy lower-cost catastrophic plans and not pay into the expensive coverage that older people will need.

The Affordable Care Act has been heralded as a success for young people because it allows them to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26. But this only benefits young people whose parents have high quality family insurance plans through their employer or the private market. This benefit is out of reach to young people whose parents don’t have stable employment or whose employers don’t provide insurance. The young adults who are shut out of this ACA benefit are more likely to be BIPOC people, already experiencing racism, health disparities and income inquality compared to their white peers.

There has been a lot of news coverage surrounding the so-called “Great Resignation” among Gen Z and Millennial workers. This narrative is based on a lot of misconceptions surrounding young people in the workforce, for example that young people are quitting jobs in massive numbers because they are “lazy” and don’t want to work. These generalizations tend to ignore that young people may be leaving jobs that lack benefits or don’t pay a living wage.

To learn more about the great work the Association of Young Americans is doing around healthcare justice, as well as student debt and climate change, visit https://joinaya.org.

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