Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/washington/news.aspx?id=135975
Story Retrieval Date: 5/23/2013 2:17:38 AM CST
WASHINGTON – Although Congress made progress last week on the road to fixing the health-care system, there was no concise answer for the following question: As a young adult, how is this bill good for me?
After a month-long period of debates and markups, the Senate advanced a health-care reform bill. On the other side of the Hill, the House voted two bills out of committee. The only problem is that no one is talking about what this all means for the 20-somethings fresh out of college, most of whom are terrified of having no job or health insurance.
A lingering question is what a new system would mean for young people, who are conspicuously absent from much of the discussion even though they are the future leaders of the country.
Many believe Congress needs to turn its attention to the baby-boomers – those who were born between 1946 and 1964, whose population makes up about 25 percent of the country – as it considers health care. Of course, there is no denying that the boomers are beginning to age, although my mother would kill me for writing that, and therefore need health care more than their younger counterparts.
Nevertheless, people in their 20s also have a large presence and deserve attention in this important legislation.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, citizens between 20 and 29 years of age make up about 14 percent of the country. I happen to be a part of that group. One question I keep wondering about is what’s in the reform for us? So far, that hasn’t really been addressed.
As the House disassembled from a vote last week on Capitol Hill, both Rep. Robert Andrews, D-N.J., and Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, who are members of the Education and Labor House committee, which just approved one of the House reform bills, attempted to answer questions in a hallway interview.
Kucinich said although he hadn’t yet taken a position on the final legislation, he drafted a different bill for health-care reform that would be more attractive to younger people. “The way the [current] bill is set up, it would permit people to participate in a public plan,” he said.
Kucinich said his universal not-for-profit plan, which was not part of the legislation that advanced, would be a “perfect solution for those students transitioning out of college who are trying to find work.”
It’s nice to know that Kucinich is thinking, at least a little, about the distressed just-out-of-college kid, but nothing has officially been done to help us. Plus, to include Kucinich’s ideas, the committee would need to keep working, which could sidetrack the fast track President Barack Obama has declared he wants for health care.
Andrews, on the other hand, is more confident in the current bill, which he said could easily be paid for in multiple ways. He said a marketplace exchange, where a person chooses her own policies and contributes five percent of her income, is the best option for college-aged citizens.
“If you had a part-time job as a substitute teacher and you’re going to grad school part-time and you’re making $10,000 a year, you make a $500 a year contribution toward the cost of coverage,” he said.
What Andrews didn’t take into account was how many grad students barely have time to eat and sleep after a day’s work, let alone find a part-time job that would pay $10,000 a year.
Andrews also recommended that graduate students use money from their work-studies for their government contributions. Not that they need the little earnings they make to pay off student loans, of course.
After he was asked what happens if you have no job, Andrews replied, “you still pay 5 percent of your income.”
Sounds good for those of us without jobs. Last time I checked, 5 percent of nothing is still nothing.
Andrews also pointed a finger at wasteful spending in the health-care industry. He said if that was reduced or there was a tax increase for the wealthiest 1 percent in the country, changes in the health-care system would be much easier.
“The president ran on this, that he would ask the wealthiest Americans to pay higher taxes to fix the health-care problem and he’s doing what he ran on,” Andrews said.
Meanwhile, there is still another health-care reform bill being marked-up by the House Energy and Commerce committee that has yet to be approved. Perhaps that one will more directly address the needs of young adults.
After the Senate committee adjourned from its final hearing on the health-care bill, the president delivered a statement outside the White House to commend the bill’s passing. What Obama did not mention was much from the bill at all. Instead, he regurgitated what he’s been preaching to the public for the last few months – that the nation needs health-care reform, it needs it now, and the government is working on it and getting a little farther every day.
Thank you, Mr. President for clarifying what you’ve been saying for the past few months. Again. It takes five minutes, maybe 10, to at least scan a summary of what you’re talking about. It would have been nice to hear it.
If you search through the America's Affordable Health Choices Act summary, not once is the word “young” mentioned. In the actual bill, which is 1,018 pages, “young” is mentioned just eight times, but only in reference to young children – not young adults.
During the hearings, the only time college-aged young adults were mentioned were in the cases of a son or a daughter who died from a lack of proper care. Morbid? Yes. Reassuring? Not so much.
Currently, not everyone qualifies for health care or has the financial means to purchase insurance. If the reform actually succeeds, those who understand the existing system may find it easy to maneuver through the new one.
For those who have only heard about the holy grail of health care but never had the opportunity to use it, though, it may be like learning a new language. Talking about how to get signed up for insurance would be especially helpful to younger people who were probably just booted off their parents' plans and have no idea what to do next. In fact, that would be a small reform in and of itself.