The Adult Children of New Jersey

Garden State tries novel way to keep young people insured

Collins acknowledges that these laws can't help everybody. If the parents don't have benefits to share, their kids are out of luck.

That's the case for Tracy Alwell, 29. A 2004 graduate of Monmouth University in New Jersey, she is currently unemployed, although she most recently worked for E! Entertainment Television—freelance, no benefits. Her father is on Social Security disability. Alwell herself has a rare neurological condition, restless legs syndrome, that keeps her up at night and requires a medication usually prescribed for Parkinson's disease. She cuts her pills into quarters to make them last.

Since reaching adulthood she has been uninsured for all but two years, when she was covered under New Jersey Family Care, a state low-income program. "I had to fight to get it," she says. "It took me 11 months from the time I sent in my application until I got coverage, and I was calling them almost every day following up—I think they gave me coverage so I would stop bothering them—and then I was knocked off because there was too much income in the household." At the time, she was making less than $800 a month and living with her dad. They were scraping along, but by Family Care standards—this year, the monthly cap for a two-person home is $1,100—they were too rich for the rolls.

illustration: Matthew Martin

Alwell recently got a savings card to try to get her needed medicine more cheaply. "I called the pharmacy to get a price on a two-month prescription, which was $150," she says. "I suddenly burst into tears because I could not afford that. I sold something of mine to get some money, called the clinic back and asked if they could call in a prescription for one month instead. . . . I never would have dreamed that someone with a college degree would go through this."

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