Nursing student objects to penalty for uninsured

SNOHOMISH — Emily Harrington, 29, hasn’t been on her parents’ health insurance since she left college.

Harrington completed her degree in international business at Washington State University in 2006, when she was 22. At the time, adult children couldn’t remain on their parents’ health insurance plan once they left college.

She went to work for a Seattle nonprofit which provided benefits, including health insurance.

When she left that job in 2011 to enroll at Everett Community College to pursue a degree in nursing, Harrington decided just to buy a catastrophic health insurance plan, what she sees as a perfect solution for a cost-conscious student.

She pays $75 a month for the coverage. A more traditional individual health insurance plan would have cost about $250 a month, she said.

“I save significant amounts of money going with catastrophic and paying out-of-pocket for annual exams,” Harrington said. These include $200 for a recent dental visit and about $100 for an eye exam.

By buying the catastrophic plan, “I figure I save $600 to $700 a year,” she said. “I’m not on any prescription medications. I don’t have any health needs.”

Harrington said she understands the reasons behind the mandate in the federal health care law that requires everyone to have insurance.

“Having many of the young, healthy folks (buy insurance) will decrease the cost for everybody,” she said.

Yet Harrington said she didn’t support it.

“Unfortunately for many of us returning to school, or unemployed, or having a young family and trying to get by, we are making these decisions for financial reasons,” Harrington said.

“To say we’re going to fine you because you didn’t purchase full coverage insurance because you can’t afford it is a hard place to be in,” she said.

The federal law upheld by today’s Supreme Court decision calls for people to pay a penalty tax if they do not have health insurance. The amount will be based on income and size of family. It also provides tax credits to help people pay for insurance.

Harrington said she wished the requirement for everyone to buy health insurance had been struck down by the Supreme Court.

She said she’s concerned about the financial impact it may have on struggling middle class families and businesses employing more than 50 people, which also are required to buy health insurance.

“In terms of what I’ll do, I’ll buy a full coverage (health insurance) plan,” she said this morning. “If that’s the law, that’s the law.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com

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