TwentySomethings: In a state of insurance 'limbo'

02/20/2011 6:34 PM

02/23/2011 1:18 PM

During the school year, Nikki Boudreau has access to health care through California State University, Stanislaus, where she’s a senior. But come summertime, and during school breaks, she is uninsured.

Under federal health care reform, young people up to the age of 26 can be insured through their parents’ health plans. But that only works if their parents have health insurance. The 22-year-old art student isn’t so lucky.

Her father worked in home improvement until the housing bubble burst. Her mother did child care. Neither is insured. So Boudreau is on her own.

Growing up in Fremont, Boudreau says she spent many of her teenage years uninsured. She didn’t see the eye doctor. She didn’t see the dentist. When a filling fell out, she spent a year refilling it with temporary filler.

“You just go a long time trying to patch things up and hope they don’t get worse,” she said.

When she was 19, Boudreau got so sick she ended up in the emergency room. In the end, that health scare was “an unexpected blessing,” she said. While in the hospital, she found out she was eligible for Medi-Cal.

Over the next year, she caught up on all kinds of care. She had her wisdom teeth pulled. She got glasses.

But on her 21st birthday, she says, she rejoined the ranks of the uninsured.

“Now it’s like, ‘I hope I don’t get a toothache. I hope I don’t get into an accident,’ ” she said, “Because I’d have to pay out of pocket.”

A few years ago, Boudreau went to Planned Parenthood for birth control, and discovered she also was eligible for Family PACT — California’s program to provide reproductive health and family planning services to the low-income, uninsured and working poor.

Now, she can get annual exams and help with limited other health problems at the clinic. She’s so grateful for that assistance, she does outreach for Planned Parenthood around campus.

“I think there’s a lot of people who are in their mid-20s who are kind of in limbo. I meet people all the time who haven’t been to the dentist for years, all sorts of things,” she said. “It’s horrible.”

Capital Public Radio will discuss The Bee’s series on “Insight,” its interview program, Wednesday from 10 to 11 a.m. Listen at KUOP 91.3 FM or www.capradio.org/news/insight .

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