Report:

Uncovered: How California's health care system fails young people

This report explores the under-appreciated problems facing American youth in our health care system.
Released by: CALPIRG Education Fund

Executive Summary

Few issues are more highly charged than health care, as it touches each of our lives in very personal, critically important ways. As a result, this year’s public conversation around health care reform has elicited viewpoints, opinions, and analysis from almost every corner of society.

But in all this discussion, one key perspective has often been missing from the health care debate: that of America’s youth. It’s commonly assumed that young Americans are disengaged from the issue, that on the whole they are a healthy group who are unlikely to be affected by health problems or lack access to care.

But the reality couldn’t be more different. In fact, young people, including college students, are on the front lines of the health care crisis. They make up the largest age bloc of the uninsured, and face a uniquely challenging set of obstacles that often prevent them from getting coverage.

Young people face health issues and require medical care just like the rest of the population, and suffer the same consequences—debt, inability to access required care, difficulties completing studies or finding work—when they become sick. And more so than their elders, they also frequently lack the resources that would enable them to cope with these challenges.

This report explores the under-appreciated problems facing American youth in our health care system. It examines the status quo, looking particularly at the coverage crisis affecting young people, the consequences a lack of quality coverage can impose on their lives, and the inadequacy of the school-based policies many universities offer their students.

While the current situation can be grim, prospects are bright for making health insurance that works available to many more young people. There are common sense reforms that have great potential to give young people more, better options, and reduce rising health care costs to ensure that coverage is more affordable. Adopting them would allow our health care system to better serve all Americans, especially those who have been too often overlooked.

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