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2008 College Graduate - Aged out of family's health plan. New health law said he could go back on.

Theresa BrownGold's painting "Aged Out of Parents Health Insurance" for her art project, Art As Social Inquiry.

(Interview 2009, oil on canvas, 40 ins. x 30 ins. )

Update 2021

Oh that hair! In 2008 my son came home from college with his thick, super-curly hair down to his shoulders. I talked him into letting me cut off 6 inches still leaving him with a king-size head of hair pictured in the portrait.

This painting is from the white-is-not-light phase. I still had an art teacher's admonition in my head to stay away from overusing white. I know now exactly what he meant. Back then I grabbed yellow instead. Although I always had a lot of colors on my palette, I did not focus as much on color in the very beginning. Feeling my way to capturing the sitter's vibe is what consumed me most.

I used my own family as subjects for my project's healthcare stories. We were struggling like so many Americans trying to figure out how to afford health insurance. This was a time before the Affordable Care Act offered small businesses options (and relief).

We had a small business, not corporate jobs with secure health benefits. We didn't know what health insurance would cost from year-to-year. We were afraid our premiums would skyrocket if we actually used the insurance. Figuring out health benefits was my least favorite thing to do as a small business owner.

One year we went a whole year without health insurance. I guess dropping insurance altogether was my way of venting frustration and running away from the hassle. What was I thinking! My husband and I were younger and risk-takers then. Not smart especially knowing what I know now. One medical event could have buried us financially for the rest of our lives.

Sometimes I wonder if life is but a measure of how many free passes one gets for doing dumb things? Not carrying insurance was one of the dumbest things I've ever done. I am so grateful there were no consequences for my boneheaded move. I owe you one, Universe.

After college my son held several part time jobs and none came with health benefits. The country was still reeling from the 2008 global financial crisis, the most significant economic downturn since The Great Depression. My son, like so many college graduates that year, pieced together full time work with several part time jobs.

When I asked my son to sit for this portrait, Congress had not yet passed the Affordable Care Act (Obamamare). Before healthcare reform became law, college graduates could not stay on their parents' health insurance polices.

I felt a pit in my stomach when I got the letter from our insurance company saying our 23-year-old son was no longer eligible for insurance coverage on our family plan.

At the time there were no online marketplaces where my son could buy a single health insurance policy. I knew enough to know that insurance companies could scrutinize my son's medical records before selling him a single policy. A thorough review of his medical past might dredge up a doctor's note about some family history of disease or a treatment for a long-forgotten illness, giving the insurance companies a reason to charge my son more, or not sell an individual policy at all.

Our son was young and healthy. Our insurance company sold him a single policy at a price he could afford with our help. But what about young adults who had fraught medical pasts and needed individual policies? Before healthcare reform they went without without health coverage. And some died. I tell those stories in this project here, here, and here.

The Affordable Care Act became law on March 23,2010. My son was 23. I contacted our insurance broker to get our son back on our family plan as per the Affordable Care Act . The law permits young adults to stay on their parents' plans up to age 26. By October 2010 our son had dropped his individual policy and rejoined the family plan.

One of our son's part-time jobs turned into a full-time work with health benefits before he turned 26. Today, at 35 years old, our son is the Associate Vice President of Technology at a consulting firm. He is very well insured.

What if my son had chosen a career path that did not offer health benefits? In that case he might have struggled buying a policy or gone uninsured altogether.

Although Congress passed and President Obama signed The Affordable Care Act in 2010, all the provisions did not start at once. The law was rolled out in phases.The online marketplaces where people could shop for individual policies did not start until 2014. The ACA provision allowing my son to stay on our family plan started in 2010.

Below is what I wrote in 2009 for this portrait story. I had no context. The Affordable Care Act had not entered general public discourse yet. Speaker Pelosi was spearheading the effort behind-the-scenes in Congress to pass healthcare reform. I only knew what was happening to our family.


(from 2009)

College Graduate, age 23, Insured

Our son will be dropped from our insurance policy when he turns 23. Insurers are not required to insure adult children on their parents' family health plans once they graduate from college.

Our son works several part time jobs. He graduated from college with a degree in physics.


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