Student voices needed in debate

Student voices needed in debate

by Emily SchettlerEditor In Chief

The battle over a new health care system has been raging in Washington for months. We’ve heard all about the concern over grandma and grandpa, illegal immigrants and Medicaid, but what about us?

Students and other young adults are an essential factor in the health care equation, so why have we been left out of the conversation?

This is President Obama’s largest issue right now, and he’s been ignoring the very people who played a huge role in putting him in office.

One major reason: we’re allowing him to.

Many students and young adults are aware of the partisan battle that’s taking place but are oblivious to what is actually at stake, especially for us.

It doesn’t matter if you believe that health care is a right or a privilege. And it doesn’t matter whether you think a public option is better than a private system. What really matters is the impact that health care reform, or lack thereof, has on you as a young adult.

Currently, young adults aged 19-29 are the largest age group of uninsured Americans. And every proposed bill brought before Congress has requirements that everyone – including young adults – have some form of health insurance coverage.

The Washington Post reported last week that requiring young people to participate in the system is essential to keeping costs low. Relatively speaking, young adults are cheap to insure because of their general good health, and including them is one way of keeping costs down for covering older individuals who may have more health problems and risks.

A report released recently by the Department of Health and Human Services found that 30 percent of young adults don’t have health insurance, compared with 17 percent of people from older age groups.

There are several reasons for why that number is so high. Some young people don’t think they need health insurance and rely on their youthfulness and general good health. Others might want insurance but can’t afford it, and it can be a challenge to find jobs that provide it. Especially now. Consider everyone you know who has graduated recently and is having trouble finding a decent job.

Every student at Simpson College has health insurance either on their own or through the school, because Simpson requires it. But if you’re on a parent’s insurance plan, you’re likely not going to be considered a dependent once you graduate from college. And if you’re on Simpson’s plan, you won’t be eligible for that either.

Health care has gotten expensive. And it takes only one unexpected illness or injury to rack up tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills. It’s a scary reality for many people.

Facing a huge pile of medical debt on top of already high student loans is just too daunting to think about.

But obtaining coverage is not as easy as snapping one’s fingers and saying “give us insurance.” It’s expensive, and we’ll be the ones paying for it.

In a reform bill unveiled by the Senate Finance Committee last Thursday, young adults would be required to have insurance or pay a hefty fine – between $750 and $950.

The Post also said that even the cheapest plans under this particular bill might cost more than $100 per month.

Most people agree that some form of health care reform is necessary. Young adults need to play a more active role in shaping that reform. As with many decisions being made right now, we’ll be living with the consequences for decades to come.

Young adults played a huge role in electing President Obama and championing his platform for change. He acknowledged that last week at a speech at the Univeristy of Maryland.

As Americans, “we refuse to stand still,” he said. “We always want to move forward. And that journey doesn’t begin in Washington, D.C…It begins on campuses like this one,” he said. “It always has. Just like the change that began in our campaign, it starts with people – especially young people – who are determined to take this nation’s destiny into their own hands.”

Students showed the influence they can have in American politics last November. But if we really do want to shape our nation’s destiny, that activism has to continue even after Election Day.