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September 28 2010

Under Law, I am an "Adult Child"

Hadley Heath

I'm not sure if anyone ever came up with a name for my generation.  It's true that we're having very diverse experiences growing up in America - so giving us a name might be tough.  But we are united by the facts that our parents are baby boomers, we practically live on computers, and... this bad economy is really giving us a headache.

What's worse is that Congress has tried to give us a name, and I'm hoping it won't stick.  To them, we are "Adult Children," or at least until our 27th birthday.  According to the health reform passed in March, children can remain on their parents' insurance policy through age 26. 

I won't go into the sermon about how at 27 years of age, many of our grandparents had already married, birthed children, and bought homes.  But I do have to say this - I don't like being referred to by the law as an "adult child." 

I have no problem with Angela and Scott (Hi Mom and Dad) calling me their adult child.  This is true.  And while I still depend on Mom and Dad for help, I file my taxes as a non-dependent.  I realize that being employed full-time is not as common as it should be for my college cohorts, but from a young person's standpoint, let me tell you why I dislike the "adult children" rule in the health reform.

Have you ever been in a room with a leak?  A pipe breaks, there's a hole in the ceiling, whatever.  The way I see it, the "adult children" rule is an attempt at mopping up the dirty water brought about by the recession.  But we haven't fixed the leak yet.  The root of the problem is not that 18-26 year olds are acting like children.  It's not even that many in our group are the so-called "invincibles" who choose against purchasing health insurance because they believe they don't need it.  The root of the problem goes much deeper than young, foolish choices.

Adult children, like their adult parents, will make rational choices about what to do with their resources.  One very important variable in these decisions is money.  If young people remain unemployed at their current rates, they won't have health benefits from their employer and won't be able to afford to buy health insurance of their own - especially as government mandates make health insurance more and more expensive. 

The answer to insuring more young Americans is not forcing insurers to put us on Mom and Dad's policy.  While it will work for many people in the short run, the long run effects on young people and Americans of all ages will be counterproductive.  When you stay on Mom's policy, Mom's employer has to pay more.  Then Mom's employer can't afford to hire you (or any new worker) for a new job.  If Dad splits the costs of his health insurance with his employer, Dad has to pay more too.  The costs of insuring young people don't go away when they are shifted away from the young people.  It's as if we've given up on fixing the economy, and now we are just up to our knees with problems and with some really saturated mops.

That's the real trouble.  The mentality behind the "adult children" rule stretches far beyond age 26.  Far too many Americans in their 30's, 40's and beyond act as if the increased costs of health care won't affect them.  The federal government is trying to act like it is Mom and Dad, and we are all its adult children.  I don't like it, and neither should you.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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