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A few thoughts on health care and being a young invincible.

Just last week I contributed to a column on young invincibles’ attitudes toward health care in the Portland Business Journal. You can find the original post here, or read it below.

I was quite surprised and excited by how many conversations it started and I am sure many of you have opinions on the topic that would make for deep and enlightening conversations. Start one here, if you are so inclined, or email me at andrea@lightboxpdx.net.

Portland Business Journal Editor’s note: This column is the second in a series we’re running on health care and the so-called “young invincibles” demographic (late teens to early 30s). Participation of young, healthy people is key to the success of the Affordable Care Act, since they will help offset the cost of older, sicker patients.

“What do you mean, you don’t have health insurance?”

The answer I got to that question was quite eye opening to me when I first started navigating my new social environment here in the Pacific Northwest almost seven years ago. Many of my peers didn’t have health insurance either because they said they didn’t believe in it or they could afford it.

I had just moved from Europe and couldn’t imagine living with the risk of ending up in deep debt because of a serious diagnosis or accident. Accepting that risk, for oneself and for others in the community, looked like stereotypical American optimism and individualism to me.

Of course things are more complex than that.

Through Young Women Social Entrepreneurs, I got involved with Portland’s entrepreneurial community. Their empowered and action-oriented attitudes were quite contagious.

It dawned on me that maybe I had my own illusions about how health insurance really worked. Maybe I had just become used to the idea of big systems taking care of me. Maybe I found it easier to pay my monthly premium than to look into what it would take to set up my own emergency fallback option.

Choosing not to sign up for health insurance started to look a lot more like responsibility and agency to me.

I still don’t doubt the need for that emergency fallback option, though. In that sense, I’m not a young invincible at all. I exercise and take my supplements, too, but I also realize that I share this planet with environmental toxins, drunk drivers, and loose rocks.

Since taking the leap into entrepreneurship myself, my setup has been bit of a bi-cultural compromise: I have an HSA plus catastrophic health insurance that I hope (knock on handcrafted wooden object) will give me some stability in case I get into a situation where I need intensive or long-term care.

My provider just announced that this plan will be discontinued at the end of the year, so I’ll have to look into a new combination soon.

I hope by then I will be able to find something comparable and affordable on the exchange, and if so, I’d be thrilled to see more of my young, almost invincible, entrepreneurial, freelancing, innovating, future-of-business-shaping colleagues get set up with that extra ounce of security as well.

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