Mynor Medrano knows what it's like not to have health insurance.
Medrano, 19, a student at UC Merced, was uninsured for five months. During that time his gums became infected, and then got worse because he couldn't afford the treatment. "I couldn't take care of the situation," he recalled.
Recently, Medrano was able to get health insurance coverage under his parents' insurance policy, which was only going to cover him until the age of 21.
But that will soon change.
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Five major provisions of the new federal health care law will go into effect Thursday. One of them will allow young adults to stay on their parents' health insurance policies until age 26. Health insurance companies also won't be able to drop people from coverage when they become ill, and all children will be protected even if they have pre-existing conditions.
The other two provisions will eliminate the annual and lifetime spending limits for medical benefits, and will require insurers to cover certain preventive services without deductibles or co-payments.
Tammy Moss, director of the Merced County Department of Public Health, said it's important for Mercedians to become aware of what the changes are and what they'll mean for them, especially because a lot of people are uninsured in Merced County. "This is an amazing opportunity for individuals to begin to have access," she said. "Overall, I do think it's going to be positive."
UC Merced psychology professor Anna Song, who analyzes health in young adults, said people at that age seem to think that they are healthy. But she said that's not always the case. "There are a lot of things that can go wrong in young adults," she said.
Song said she has been discussing the new health care law with her students in her health disparities class. She said only about half of them know about the law, but the other half don't know much about it.
Medrano said the new provisions will be a relief for him and other young adults, especially those attending college or university. "I don't have to worry about not being uninsured," he said. "It will take a burden off my shoulders."
UC Merced student Cristal Yee agreed with Medrano. The 21-year-old said it will be reassuring to be able to stay on her parents' insurance policy for five more years because college students already have too many other expenses. "We are paying so much for tuition," she said.
Orisa Morrice, 21, a UC Merced senior, said he's always been fortunate because he's always been covered under his parents' insurance. He added, however, that his coverage would have been dropped when he turns 24 until the new reforms were passed into law. Morrice said he will benefit from the two extra years.
Song said many students stress out over what they'll do about health care insurance after they graduate, but she said the new provisions will help ease those concerns.
Morrice said he's now only worried about what will happen after he turns 26. "I'm not going to be able to afford" health insurance then, he said.
Also as part of the federal changes, small businesses with fewer than 25 full-time employees will receive tax credits to help them cope with the cost of health insurance for the workers they employ.
Malee Chulanuka, owner of Thai Star Restaurant, located at the London Plaza on the corner of G Street and West Alexander Avenue, said she still doesn't know what kind of impact her business will see as a result of the tax credit or even if the restaurant will receive any. Chulanuka said she's still waiting for information from the federal government.
She's not alone.
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 388-6507 or firstname.lastname@example.org