Yes we can (pay now or pay later)

By Clarion Editorial Board

Love it or hate it, the clock is ticking. March 31 is the final date for Americans to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, or face a penalty with their federal tax return next year.

While critics believe that Obamacare may not be the best answer to fix the health care mess in our nation, it is a step in the right direction.

For decades, millions of Americans have not been able to get healthcare because of pre-existing conditions, expensive premiums or simply because they didn’t know how to apply.

With the Affordable Care Act (ACA) now the law of the land, Americans can have a better sense of security knowing that if an injury and illness befalls them, they can not only see a doctor and get treatment when they need it, but in doing so will not cost them an arm and a leg.

Young people especially have been urged to sign up, but there is a problem.

A widespread epidemic is affecting presumably healthy young people. It is not any kind of airborne or blood illness, it’s apathy.  The same reason we wait until Sunday night to finish homework that is due Monday, is the same reason the Obama administration is expected to fall short of the 7.1 million sign-ups they had hoped to get for 2014.

If Obamacare fails, it will not be because of Republican opposition or public protest, but because of young adults who were too preoccupied or too uninformed to sign up.

No one is immune to illness. The only way you can be sure of avoiding injury is the same way you have been avoiding signing up for healthcare: sitting on your couch and doing nothing.

It is no secret that the process to sign up for Obamacare has been fraught with frustration. Issues with the website crashing and with confusing procedures have discouraged younger adults from enrolling into the system.

Unfortunately the “dog-ate-my-homework” excuse that the website didn’t will not be enough to avoid paying the penalties that come with not registering for health insurance by March 31.

Young adults between the ages of 18 – 34 are the demographic that the White House and insurers are targeting to help offset the cost of premium payments for older Americans, who presumably will need more medical care and attention and therefore cost more.

The penalty, in case you think of it as a mere slap on the wrist, is either $95 or one percent of your gross pay, whichever amount is greater.

People who fail to register for healthcare will not be able to register again until the next tax year. So on top of having to pay a penalty you are still left without insurance.

There is no way around it, this is the law– but it is a law that only serves to benefit you.

Having healthcare is a basic right that many Americans had been denied because of bureaucracy and negligence. Minorities who fall through the cracks, Latinos and African-Americans are slow to get with the program, but can benefit greatly from the new law.

Latinos make up 60 percent of uninsured individuals in California and are the largest minority group in the state.

Many individuals or families who have not enrolled are eligible for subsidies and may not even know it. The time to get it done is now, waiting until the last minute is basically shooting yourself in the foot.

Because the process to enroll can be time consuming, it’s imperative to plan ahead and sign up before the deadline.

Health insurance is something not many of us think of until an emergency hits. Medical bills and expenses can be costly and can bankrupt families and place individuals in debt for years.

Whether it is out of fear of being persecuted or just out of sheer unpreparedness, it is essential that everyone, regardless of age or ethnicity enroll as quickly as possible for healthcare. This system is put in place to help protect us, having access to premium health care is no longer an unattainable dream.