It’s the end of eighth week which means that us seniors only have two things on our minds: COMPS and JOBS. Unfortunately, we have not been concerned enough about health care, the realities of which are terrifying.
Some basic facts about health care. The census estimates that 46 million Americans currently do not have health insurance. Of those uninsured, nearly 30% of them are young adults (ages 18 – 24) representing the largest group that pay out of pocket for health care. The only problem is, our population usually can’t afford it.
Most Carleton students are covered through their parents’ health insurance as a dependent. The school also offers a plan for current students. Oftentimes though, these benefits disappear once we have graduated as which point students are expected to have obtained full-time jobs that offer health benefits. The reality today is that these jobs are quickly disappearing. In the current economic crisis companies have laid off workers and imposed hiring freezes. It’s hard finding a job, much less one that offers benefits. So not only are we jobless, we also have no access to affordable medical care.
Insurance companies call our generation the “young invincibles.” They say that 20-somethings choose to go without health insurance because they don't think they are going to get sick - so why pay for something we won’t need?
But we’re not as invincible as we’d like to think. We smoke, drink excessively, and experiment with illicit drugs. One-third of us are obese, another third overweight. Let’s be honest, we can make some pretty stupid decisions concerning our health and safety. And as always, accidents will happen. We never think it will happen to us, until it does.
Health care reform should matter more to us than any other age group. Not only will the extent of the coverage and benefits affect us directly but we are going to be the ones paying for it. The bill passed by the Democrats in the Senate will cover an estimated 30 million people (of the 46 million uninsured) but with a price-tag of $871 billion. An alternative plan offered by the Republicans will cost $61 billion in ten years but it only covers three million people. Whatever direction health care reform goes in, we can’t risk not being a part of the debate.
It’s a bleak future. No jobs and no health care unless we’re willing to increase our seemingly infinite debt. Damn if we do, and damn if we don’t. The beauty is that we can have a say in what happens. We can pay attention to the health care debate, get engaged, and make a difference. We can’t afford not to, it’s our futures they’re gambling with.