U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney visited the University of Connecticut’s Student Union Monday for a roundtable discussion with student leaders about health insurance reform.
In an election season dominated by the Tea Party and its cries to repeal Obamacare Courtney found a constituency Monday that supports federal health care reform.
Courtney met with members of the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) and the Connecticut Public Interest Research Group (ConnPIRG), a statewide non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy group.
Six federal provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act take effect September 23, although Courtney said many Connecticut businesses did not wait to implement the changes. Students and Courtney lauded the provision that extends insurance coverage for young adults up to age 26 on their family’s plan.
“For Connecticut families, the law means one thing,” said ConnPIRG student leader Ethan Senack. “They can breathe easier because affordable coverage for their sons and daughters is within reach.”
“This is a watershed week,” Courtney said. “For the demographic of people in their 20s, there is still a need for coverage. Unfortunately, bad things can happen to people even in their 20s.”
He used his brother Phil as an unfortunate example. Phil Courtney died at age 26 from lymphoma, leaving behind a wife and a baby.
“This is an absolutely essential provision of the new health insurance reform law,” he said. “Recent graduates face a lot of pressure in this challenging economy without also having to worry about finding and paying for their own insurance.”
ConnPIRG estimates 9,050 Connecticut young adults and families could benefit from the provision. Both in-and out-of-state full-time students and young adults without an employer-sponsored insurance plan will continue receiving coverage.
Steven Waslo, a student and member of ConnPIRG, said the extended age limit helped his family. His sister faced a grim neurological diagnosis while in college.
“Basically, without health care reform, my sister wouldn’t be alive today,” he said. “The whole time the country was figuring out health care reform, my sister was suffering. She was 21 at the time and scheduled to be dropped from my parent’s insurance. New health care reform saved us from bankruptcy or selling our house.”
Courtney said medical bills often drive young adults and families into bankruptcy.
“These are real, concrete changes,” he said. “This is going to help people gain confidence and comfort that this is a bill that will help.”
Courtney and student leaders also walked around campus handing out ConnPIRG’s new consumer guide, “The Young Person’s Guide to Health Insurance.” The guide features advice, coverage options, consumer protection information and an introductory letter from President Barack Obama.
Former news anchor Janet Peckinpaugh, the Republican who is challenging Courtney in November, has said she will seek to repeal federal health care reform if elected.