Linda, a 28-year-old blonde, walked into the tiny restroom of the tony Italian restaurant with a friend. Linda locked the door, and carefully filled a syringe with clear fluid from a vial and tied off her arm to find a vein. Her friend eased the needle under Linda's arm and pushed the syringe's contents into her bloodstream.
Just another sordid tale of heroin chic? Not quite. This particular syringe was filled with Gardasil, the vaccine against cervical cancer. And far from being in the express lane on the road to perdition, Linda was just trying take good care of herself and find her way through the maze that is the American healthcare system.
This week's cover story examines people like Linda, twentysomethings without insurance or woefully underinsured. Branded as "Young Invincibles" by the insurance industry. While they believe they live in a bubble of invincibility, occasionally that bubble will pop, and when it does they will resort to almost any means to avoid getting caught up in the healthcare industry.
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Shooting themselves up with vaccines is just the beginning. Young Invincibles rely first and foremost for their diagnoses on the wisdom of Dr. Google and sometimes delay seeing actual human doctors until after their conditions have passed easy manageability. They share prescriptions without knowing the possible repercussions or side effects. Some score drugs they have been prescribed from dealers of illegal substances, while others photograph their skin conditions and ask for "expert advice" from indie-rock message boards.
Christine Hassler, an author, life coach and expert on twentysomethings, believes that many (but certainly not all) members of Generation Y are overwhelmed into inaction by the complexity of American healthcare. "They really don't understand health insurance -- co-pays, deductibles, in-network or out-of-network, PPOs, HMOs -- they have no clue how to navigate through that," she says.
"Even when they do go get a job, often times they pick the plan that is the least expensive where a PPO might better serve them. They don't know that they can write off some of their health care expenses and things like that."
She calls them "adultolescents": no longer adolescents, but not yet adults. "The things they can avoid and deny -- like healthcare -- they will," she says. "It's kinda like that Scarlett O'Hara quote: 'I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that