Abby-Care: Health Coverage for Young Adults Under 26
By Dori Salcido, HHS Acting Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs
Born with a rare congenital disease, Abby Schanfield, a 20-year-old student at the University of Minnesota, tells us of many reasons why she cares so passionately about the Affordable Care Act, the new health care law. One particular reason she shared with us is the law’s requirement that young adults be allowed to remain on their parents’ health plan until they turn 26. That one provision assures her that she’ll continue to get the care she needs, and that assurance relieves her of stress that could worsen her condition.
“That was one of the most important things in the law and one of the most powerful things for me in my life,” Abby says.
Abby was born with congenital toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease that her mother didn’t realize she could pass to her unborn child. When she was 10 months old, Abby needed neurosurgery to install a shunt to drain spinal fluid that was collecting on her brain. She’s had to replace the shunt four times, and likely will continue to do so every couple of years. It’s a scary, expensive procedure that has a painful recovery. When Abby was 17, she started to lose vision in her left eye, which has also required surgery and treatment to avoid losing her sight altogether in that eye.
As Abby tells it, she’s fortunate that her parents’ plan and family assistance have made it possible for her to get excellent care. “There was a point before the Affordable Care Act was passed, I was very concerned about my future and whether I would be able to access care. … [With the health care law] I have a world available to me,” she says.
Like 2.5 million other young adults helped by the Affordable Care Act, Abby can continue to get the care she needs, including preventive services, because she can remain on her parents’ health plan until she turns 26. Beginning in 2014, there will be other options as well: State-based Affordable Insurance Exchanges, new competitive marketplaces where many people will be able to purchase affordable coverage. Additionally, the new health care law ends lifetime dollar limits on essential benefits and restricts annual dollar limits until they are phased out in 2014, which are particularly important policies to people like Abby with chronic diseases.
Families across the United States can rest easier knowing that, if necessary, their young adult children can stay on their health plans and that it will be illegal by 2014 for insurance companies to discriminate against them because of pre-existing conditions.
“You can’t guess what life will toss at you … and without health and stability, it’s so much more difficult to navigate life,” Abby says. “Even if you don’t have a health issue now like I do,” that’s uncertain. You can’t play a guessing game with life, and everybody deserves a chance at happiness and a healthy life.”