As Matt Kragen prepares a dinner salad in his family’s kitchen, he makes sure he chops all of the vegetables just so. The 23-year-old is learning how to be a cook at a Japanese restaurant.
“I was training to be a sushi chef originally,” Kragen explained. “But since I can’t devote all of my time to the restaurant once school starts, I’m training to be a cook, instead.”
Kragen can’t afford to buy his own health insurance. But thanks to Obamacare, he’s covered under his mom’s policy until he turns 26.
Matt’s mom, Pam, said that’s a godsend. “It’s tremendous, to me, because he doesn’t have a steady job and he’s going to school full time. And I would worry about him,” she said. “You know, driving out in the community, and exercising and doing anything out in the public where he could get injured, or injured at work. It just, you know, gives me piece of mind.”
Extending coverage to young adults on their parents’ health plans has been available since 2010. More than 350,000 young people in California have taken advantage of it.
Another group of people who’ve already benefited from Obamacare are adults with pre-existing conditions. San Diegan Bob Eugley has a history of severe asthma and heart problems. He found himself in a tough spot when he shut down his construction company two years ago.
When Eugley tried to buy health coverage on his own, no insurer wanted to take a chance on him. But under the affordable care act, he qualified for a special state plan for people with pre-existing conditions. The premium was $485 a month. Eugley said it was worth every penny.
“My hands were tingling, and I ended up with carpal tunnel on both hands. I had the surgery for both carpal tunnel issues,” he said. “And of course my asthma problem was getting worse, and was out of control. I really could no longer play hockey, couldn’t exercise, and was able to get into a specialist, get some treatment for that.”
California’s program ran out of money earlier this year. The federal government now runs it. Eugley and about 16,000 other Californians are covered under the federal plan.
Some benefits of Obamacare are available to everyone. For example, there are no more lifetime coverage limits on health insurance. And preventive services like mammograms and cholesterol checks are provided free of charge.
However, it remains to be seen whether California will be ready for this fall’s launch of the health exchange. It’s designed to give consumers and small businesses choices in a competitive marketplace, but some wonder whether prices will be as affordable as promised.
Still, Bob Eugley argued Obamacare sure beats the system we have now.
“It is the most expensive in the world,” Eugley said. “It flat out doesn’t work. Insurance carriers are essentially cherry picking the healthy, younger patients, and leaving the old, broken people like me to find their own way.”
Health care reform is supposed to change that.