I have a bum shoulder. The accident happened over 10 years ago now. I was snowboarding. I was young. I thought I was invincible. I crashed on a big jump and have lived in chronic pain ever since. In the moments after the crash, while writhing in pain, I actually thought to myself, “I’m not going to be one of those middle-aged men with a bum shoulder that can’t play catch with his son.” Well, 10 years later I now have a little 4-month old son and that vision is closer to reality than I ever thought possible.
How I arrived at this place is almost a case-study in the trials and tribulations of what the health care industry calls the “young invincibles.” It happened while I was in college. As required by my school, I had health insurance, so after the incident, I followed-up with a doctor. I didn’t have a health care home, let alone a regular primary care doctor, so I went to a clinic recommended by my mother. The provider gave me a sling, some pain medication, and an order for a round of physical therapy.
I wore the sling for a good month, taking sprawling notes in class with my left hand. After the acute pain went away, I went to one or two physical therapy appointments, but stopped going once I was relatively back to normal. I couldn’t really afford the co-payments, I was soon overwhelmed by the semester’s workload, and my shoulder felt about 80%. I figured I’d be back to normal in no time. Soon after that I graduated and lost my insurance.
In Colorado, males 18 to 34 years of age have higher unemployment and uninsurance rates than the state as a whole. Cost is a big deterrent to purchasing health insurance coverage for these young men, and many also opt to not get covered because they’re healthy and don’t feel it’s necessary. Importantly, these individuals are also the least familiar with how the health insurance system works and are unlikely to have a strong, long-term relationship with a provider.
Over the next 9 years, I had very sporadic health insurance coverage. At one point, I had an “annual” physical. After the doctor did the initial physical exam, he asked if I had any health concerns. I got through two items on my list and had just launched into my shoulder story when he interrupted me, saying “Easy now, we only have time to deal with one or two of these things today.” My shoulder pain was put on the back burner again.
Earlier this year, with a stable job, excellent health insurance, and a wife that was 6-months pregnant, I finally went back for another physical. This time, though, my provider patiently listened while I ran through my whole list. After hearing me out, he said, “I think we can find solutions to all of those concerns—let’s start with that shoulder.” A few rounds of physical therapy later, my shoulder is at long last at 100%.
My story is far from unique, but I’m one of the lucky ones with a happy ending. Colorado's great outdoors bring many "young invincibles" to our great state, so we are lucky that new tools, such as the Colorado Health Benefit Exchange, and new coverage options for young adults from the Affordable Care Act, provide us with a golden opportunity to get these individuals stable health insurance coverage. My son may be a few years away from playing catch in the backyard, but thanks to reliable coverage and good health care providers, I will be ready to enjoy it.
Having health insurance coverage results in better access to valuable health care services and an increased likelihood of living a healthier life. Read our issue brief on Health & Insurance.