Compass: Young invincibles, you're not invincible; get health insurance

As a new mom and co-chair for United Way's Emerging Leaders group, the health of young Alaskans matters to me and I feel like it is an issue often overlooked. Did you know that according to the United Health Foundation, Alaska ranks 40th in the health ranking of all the states? And that a whopping 33 percent of young Alaskans between the ages of 18 and34 are uninsured?

Alaska's young adults are our next generation of leaders, positioned at the beginning of their careers. Without the safety net that health insurance provides, they face the risk of inadequate and untimely medical care, missed days of work, lost income andhuge debts that could impact them financially for years.

The American health care industry is calling uninsured young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 "Young Invincibles," a term that refers to the belief that they will be young and healthy forever. Some may not be able to afford health insurance, but many simply aren't willing to spend the money.

The truth is, you can remain on your parents' policy until you are 26 years old and that the new health care exchange now offers lower premiums and sometimes subsidies. The potential risks and high price of going uninsured simply don't make sense.

Being invincible is a myth. When I was in my twenties, I never imagined that anything bad could happen to my peers or me. Then, a close family friend was diagnosed with stage-four cancer at the age of 24. He was uninsured. For him and his family to face such a serious illness was challenging enough, without the added stress of how they were going to cover his medical costs.

The truth is, you just never know what could happen. And unfortunately, things happen.

The peace of mind that health insurance provides me, as far as I'm concerned, is the greatest benefit of being insured. Not only does it afford me access to adequate medical care and the ability to address health concerns quickly, but should something happen to me or my family, I know we won't face a financial crisis.

Let's open the lines of communication. Parents: talk to your kids. Young adults: talk to your friends. Informing the people in our lives about the importance of being insured is an important step toward better health for everyone. And let's not forget that as of March 2014, health insurance is not only important, it's mandatory.

The resources are out there to navigate through your questions about policy types, costs and subsidies. Don't let not knowing prevent you from taking action. Calling Alaska 2-1-1 can help you connect with resources in your community, including in-person assistance, and hosts a wealth of information.

Health insurance for any Alaskan is important. But for a young adult who risks fiscal debt that could impact them for the rest of their lives, being insured should be a priority.

Melissa Branch is