SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Celisa Figueroa, 22, spends her days working full time at a coffee shop in San Diego to support herself and her two-year-old daughter. Still, she says without her mother’s health insurance, she would not have been able to undergo a necessary dental procedure that would have set her back almost $2000.
She is one of millions of young people across the country already benefiting from the health care reform law known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Thanks to the ACA, passed in March 2010 and which allows, among other things, parents to keep kids on their health insurance policies up to age 26, Figueroa has been able to remain on her mother’s plan. In addition to the dental work, she has also received treatments for chronic back pain, a condition that emerged following the birth of her daughter, and help with weight loss.
Figueroa’s sister, Genea, has also benefited from the law. A single mother, she says she saved some $4000 in medical expenses over the final two years that she was on her own mother’s plan.
“Health care is something that is very important,” says the older sibling, who works part time in a nearby shoe store, “but difficult to obtain.” Now 26, too old to remain on her mother’s plan, she says she’s unable to afford health care for herself and her six-year-old daughter.
“To be able to have health insurance at my work,” she explains, “you have to work a certain number of hours … [Previously] I was under my mother’s insurance, but now it is difficult for me.”
According to a report put out by the non-profit Commonwealth Fund, “Young, Uninsured, and In Debt,” adults between the ages of 19 and 29 make up the largest segment of the population who go without health insurance for the longest periods of time. With passage of the ACA, it found, some 6.6 million adult children under 26 have been able to remain on their parents’ health insurance.
For Genea, 2014 – the scheduled date for full implementation of all parts of the ACA – can’t come soon enough. Recalling her own experience, she says her daughter, who was born premature, was kept in the hospital on an incubator for over a month. “Fortunately at that time, I had health insurance … Without that, I could have lost my baby.”
The sisters’ mother, Christy Figueroa, 45, works as an administrative assistant in the San Diego Community College District. “I have been blessed,” she said, “because my family is protected by my health insurance.”
In addition to covering her two daughters, Figueroa’s plan has also allowed other members of her family – six in total, including four daughters and her husband, Rogelio Pettis, whom she married three years ago – to receive needed medical care.
The family is among some 50 million uninsured U.S. citizens that experts say will benefit from the ACA once it goes into effect.
Likewise, providers will be restricted from turning away or charging excessive rates for those with pre-existing conditions – such as asthma or diabetes. For now, the law includes a Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), administered by the states and the federal government, which provides health insurance to those who have been rejected by private companies and have gone without health insurance for at least six months.
As of September, some 12,821 California residents had registered for PCIP, according to HealthCare.gov.
As for Christy Figueroa, the new law is a shift in the right direction.
Before marrying, she says her husband paid $500 a month for an insurance policy for himself and his daughter, Marjalesa. “Imagine,” she says, “if I didn’t have health care and my family had to enroll in my husband’s policy. Wow, what would that have cost?”
Spanish speaking readers can learn more about the Affordable care Act by watching “Health Care Reform Comes to the Public,” produced by the the Kaiser Family Foundation, or by visiting the website CuidadoDeSalud.gov, which allows used to estimate how much they will have to pay for insurance under the new law and what kinds of benefits are available to them. Low income families who may be eligible for subsidies can learn more here.
This article was made possible by a grant from The California Endowment, and was produced as part of New America Media’s series on the Affordable Care Act.