Doctor’s orders: Get the insurance

Posted Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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A shameful campaign is under way to discourage our nation’s youth from getting health insurance.

As a mother of four young children and a doctor, I hope our young people will be smart enough to take care of themselves and ignore these dishonest efforts.

Generation Opportunity, a Koch brothers-funded group, is employing scare tactics with ads depicting Uncle Sam as a creepy doctor.

They are also visiting college campuses and giving away free beer, food and iPads trying to persuade our kids not to get coverage on the health insurance marketplace.

The campaign is hitting the road this fall and targeting youths on a college campus near you. This should shock you as it does me.

This campaign is personally offensive to doctors like me who spend their lives caring for patients. Beyond that, the group’s efforts are reckless and irresponsible.

Affordable health care for young people means a healthier, more financially secure future.

No one plans to get in a car accident or to develop cancer. But most people will need medical care at some point in their lives.

I have witnessed some heartbreaking stories of people driven into bankruptcy or saddled with a lifetime of ruined credit simply because they got sick. But that doesn’t have to be the case any longer.

Open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act has begun and will last until March 31. Even if the website is frustratingly slow and balky right now, it’s vitally important that the uninsured who are eligible sign up during the enrollment period — especially young people, who stand to benefit greatly.

I am caring for a 28-year-old uninsured woman who has developed a severe skin condition that is not only painful, but also so severe that she remains indoors most of the time due to her open and oozing skin lesions. Her care has been severely limited by her lack of insurance.

We have been unable to obtain skin biopsies for a clear diagnosis or complex laboratory evaluations that would cost thousands of dollars for an uninsured patient. We have had to use cheaper medications with severe side effects because more appropriate medications are unaffordable.

On Oct. 1 she was able to purchase a health insurance policy via the marketplace. Her life has changed, and she knows that on Jan. 1 she will finally have access to the health care she badly needs.

The combination of age rating, more comprehensive coverage and subsidies will make insurance on the marketplace a good value for young people and a great way to manage health and financial risk. If you don’t get covered and you break your leg, it would easily cost you $2,500.

In the end, young adults will have comprehensive affordable coverage and peace of mind that an unexpected accident or illness will not devastate them physically and financially.

While the popular image of young people paints them as the picture of health, that does not mean they cannot benefit from regular checkups and preventive care. Annual checkups are a great way to get counseling about how to stay healthy.

The bottom line: Purchasing insurance is good for your wallet and good for your health. Those who encourage young people not to enroll are clearly more motivated by politics than policy. They have chosen to put politics ahead of patients’ lives. Don’t fall for it.

Coverage is good medicine. Take it from a doctor, not an actor in a creepy Uncle Sam costume.

Mona V. Mangat is a board-certified allergist and immunologist in St. Petersburg, Fla.

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