Health insurance reminder for college students

College class

Kai Ryssdal: It's all over but the final exams for college seniors. Now it's on to getting a job. Figuring out where to live. Maybe how to start paying back those student loans.

Also signing up for insurance. University presidents and student body leaders are getting letters from the White House this week. They're being reminded that health care reform means you can sign up to stay on your parents' plan until you're 26.

From the Marketplace health desk at WHYY, Gregory Warner reports on the economics of those reminders.

Gregory Warner: Maybe they can slip it into the commencement address.

College student: Graduation is not the end; it's the beginning. Do not follow the well-worn path in life. But do sign up for health insurance under your parents' plan. Thanks mom!

Before the health care reform law, people had to leave their parents' insurance after graduation.

Aaron Smith is founder of the advocacy group Young Invincibles. He created a 'graduation toolkit' to help today's seniors navigate their new rights -- and its dull vocabulary.

Aaron Smith: Information like 'what is a deductible,' 'what are premiums' is valuable information for young people to know about, because they've never bought insurance before.

Insurance analysts say the outreach is working. Lots of young adults are signing up on their parents' plans. Still, people in their twenties are almost twice as likely as older adults to be uninsured.

Martin Gaynor: I thought I was bulletproof when I was 18 or 20.

Martin Gaynor is a professor of economics and health policy at Carnegie Mellon University. He says that changing this culture of invincibility is a part of the economics of health care reform. Because when today's graduates turn 26, they'll be legally required to buy insurance.

Gaynor: It will either have to be that people just don't want to break the law, or they're already accustomed to being part of health insurance. And for any insurance to work, you have to have everybody in the pool.

The more young healthy people sign up, he says, the cheaper premiums will be for everybody. In other words, graduates, you are the future. Of health care reform.

In Philadelphia, I'm Gregory Warner for Marketplace.

About the author

Gregory Warner is a senior reporter covering the economics and business of healthcare for the entire Marketplace portfolio.


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