Years back, when I was about to graduate college, I remember my father’s great concern that I find a “good job.” His fears weren’t about pay or my ability to survive on my own. He was worried about me having health care benefits. At that time, he knew, as soon as I graduated from college, I would no longer be allowed to stay on his policy. For this reason, the idea of going abroad or traveling, taking some time off, or not entering my “career field” was not an option my parents were OK with.

Yesterday, I received a letter from my health insurance company in the mail. It was actually good news. The letter said that my insurance company is now offering a new benefit that provides children, up to age 29, who have no other options (not eligible for employer coverage or public programs) to now stay on their parents plan. This is not because the insurance company thought this was a good idea, but because of the hard work of Health Care for All New York and other dedicated advocates in New York State.

Last legislative session, Health Care for All New York, the state coalition that Citizen Action helped start back in 2007, led a fight for this young adult coverage expansion. With the help of Governor Paterson, who originally suggested the change, State Senator Neil Breslin (D-Albany) and Assemblyman Joe Morelle (D-Rochester), chairs of the legislature’s insurance committees, New York State passed this new health insurance requirement into law.

When the bill first was proposed, however, it had a small clause in it that would have made it so insurance companies would be allowed to discriminate premium rates based on age. In New York, advocates fought hard and won years ago to make sure that health insurance companies couldn’t discriminate on any basis – age, disability, pre-existing condition, etc. In fact, New York is one of the few states that has this “pure community-rating” law on the books (something we are fighting hard for in national health reform). Health Care for All New York, teamed up with AARP and other health advocates last session and fought back. We made sure the bill passed, but passed without “age-rating,” ensuring that health insurance companies cannot discriminate against the elderly and the sick.

Compared to the bigger picture of winning federal health reform that will cover millions more New Yorkers, winning this young adult coverage is a small victory. But it’s a victory nonetheless.  It is these victories, small and large, that give New York State high marks in terms of number of residents with health care coverage. Our fight is far from over. New York still has 2.7 million uninsured and countless others who are underinsured. But while we are on our way to the big win – quality, affordable, health care for everyone in our state and the nation – know that we continue to take small but important step – steps that make sure your son or daughter has the health care they need when they need it.