The people who are dumping on MnSure and threatening to de-fund the Affordable Care Act really need to listen to us struggling Millennials.
As a new intern for Growth & Justice, I am also a member of that “Millennial Generation” entering the workforce at a particularly trying time. For the first time ever nationally, student loan debt has hit the $1 trillion mark, meaning more students hold more student loan debt than ever before. Though the country has enjoyed 42 months straight of private sector job growth, the vestigial effects of the Great Recession have created a sinkhole for many young professionals trying to start their career. With the national unemployment rate still above 7%, many employers are able to hire highly experienced candidates for less, which constrains upward mobility for recent college graduates who are seeking experience.
My story fits this demographic stereotype rather well. After graduating from the University of Minnesota, I decided to seek some professional experience and gain financial stability before bearing the albatross of additional student loan debt for graduate studies. I was hired by the human resources department of a public university, where I was a programs specialist. I had good benefits and was making more money than I ever had before, which helped defray the monthly student loan payments, among other bills. But a little over a year after being hired, our department underwent some structural re-organization to accommodate recession-induced budget tightening, and my position was eliminated.
Although Obamacare added a year to eligibility for people my age to remain on their parents’ plans, I’m now past that age. I have asthma, requiring regular prescriptions, so when I attempted to find health insurance on the private market, I quickly realized that I simply could not afford the plans. Even the COBRA Continuation coverage offered by my ex-employer had premiums far outside of my affordability due to my pre-existing condition.
Imagine my delight when MNSure recently released their projected premium rates for state health plans offered through the Affordable Care Act exchanges. MNSure is offering health care plans as low as $91/month before subsidies. On the private market, I was looking at premiums closer to $600/month for an individual plan.
This will be a godsend for me. In addition to ensuring better care of my health, access to affordable care also gives me greater liberty in how I approach my future. Where before, my financial calculus necessitated working full time to pay down loan debt and retain health insurance, I will now be able to work part-time while I finish my graduate studies, or start a business, or intern at my favorite think tank, with less fear of being bankrupted if I happen to break my arm on a bike ride. As a student of public policy, I am confident that Obamacare is a step in the right direction for our nation and our state and I am also confident that Minnesota’s MNSure exchange will help make health insurance more transparent and affordable for all Minnesotans. I am also personally grateful for national health care reform and Minnesota’s extraordinary adaptation of it through MNSure; more than anything I’m thankful for the flexibility these reforms give me in charting my future.