Part One of a Two Part Series
Over the last few months, the most prevalent issue in the national political discussion has been President Obama’s crusade to reform our broken health care system. As one of the only developed industrial nations without a universal health care system, the United States ranks shockingly low on many international health rankings. Whether one is a single parent, a small business owner, or a college student, the fight to provide suitable health care coverage is a salient issue for most Americans.
Fortunately, legislation has recently been proposed in Congress to remedy this problem. Although not perfect, the proposed health care bill recently put forth by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nevada) would expand coverage to 94% of all Americans, and would simultaneously reduce the federal budget deficit. Rather than fit the stereotype of an intrusive liberal program, this bill allows those Americans who are happy with their coverage to keep it as is. This bill will clearly be a boon for our federal government, for many Americans struggling to provide their families with proper health insurance, and not least of all for businesses weighed down by the overwhelming costs of providing their employees with health coverage. Here at Think, we wonder whether these expected positive results will also translate to college campuses.
Many of the uninsured are college students or recent college graduates. Currently, college students are usually covered by their parent’s health plans, but upon graduating they are left to fend for themselves. The proposed health care bill would extend the aforementioned privilege to include young adults as old as twenty-six. This would ease the burden on college graduates, who are one of the most susceptible demographics to health care problems. Already saddled with student loans and the pressure of finding gainful employment, the news that health care will be provided for college graduates is a good sign that the Obama administration has remembered that even college graduates need assistance at times.
While it is true that many young Americans do choose not to purchase health insurance, believing themselves to be invincible, this is not as widespread a phenomenon as the opponents of universal health care would like the public to believe. To hear conservatives tell it, the vast majority of the uninsured are arrogant young people in their twenties who distort national statistics by refusing to purchase coverage that they could easily afford. In fact, a majority of the uninsured truly are those who cannot afford it, including a great number of college graduates who do not possess the financial means to insure themselves. Furthermore, there are an unknown, but substantial, number of college students who are electing to intentionally delay their graduation in the hopes of remaining on their parent’s insurance. The resulting glut of college students has had a negative effect on the college experience, most palpably felt by students who are now struggling to find housing on campus. Many of these older students have conditions that can only be treated using the health care available to them as college students.
I recently spoke with Dr. Raymond Goldstein to discuss the Baucus health care bill and its prospective effects on college students, and on the country as a whole. The following are a summation of his thoughts on the issue, prompted by three overarching questions I asked him during my interview with him.
What effects, if any, will the proposed health care bill have on college students?
The health care bill as it stands right now will not do enough to remedy the current situation. Rather than excise the harmful inclusion of insurance companies in our health car system, the Baucus bill will be a windfall for these same companies who have so badly harmed our nation.
In regards to college students, Dr. Goldstein’s prognosis is hardly more promising. Although he predicts that the stipulation in the bill that young adults can remain on their parent’s coverage until the age of 26 may result in short term improvements for our demographic, he believes that this is only on the margins of our age group, and that this part of the bill will also help the companies. The lack of regulation in the bill will allow insurance companies to charge higher premiums for the young adults remaining on their parent’s plans.
Dr. Goldstein believes that real reform would be a boon to college students, but that any bill without a strong public option included will do nothing to alleviate any current or potential suffering that we experience. Without a public option, or at least clear regulations on predatory practices by insurance companies, this bill may exacerbate current problems in our system, rather than cure them.
Does the University Medical Center have an official position on the proposed legislation?
The University has not officially weighed in on the issue, although the individuals in the medical center obviously have their own strong opinions. Dr. Goldstein referred to Dr. David Brown as being a strong proponent of a single payer system, although he assured me that most doctors on campus are opponents of any progressive health reform.
Are there any common myths and misconceptions about health care that you would like to dispel?
It is important to stress that Americans should look to Western European health care systems for guidance, rather than demonizing them for simply being “un-American”. Dr. Goldstein thinks that our pervasive ideology of what he calls “rugged individualism” has harmed us in this area, and that this mode of thinking is responsible for the insurance companies being able to maximize their profits at the expense of public welfare. In an interesting side note, he also submitted that the current state of our health care system in relation to Western Europe’s is a definite contributing factor in the continuing weakness of the US dollar compared to the Euro.
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