Monday, August 24, 2009

Healthcare is NOT just an issue for Seniors

And young people are definitely NOT AWOL from the "healthcare fight."

This article provides a few anecdotes from young people (18-29) who seem to be disengaged from the debate on healthcare reform, but I have read countless articles and anecdotes from the same age group (and other age groups, including seniors) who desperately want reform. Just because they're not showing up to townhalls with posters of Obama being likened to Hitler does not mean young people aren't engaged.

Yes, young people are generally healthier and thus less likely to need insurance NOW, but they're not stupid, and they can see we're in a system that's broken. We can see that having employer based health insurance no longer makes sense for a global economy where the average person changes careers or jobs 8 times in their lifetime. It's no longer makes sense when close to 40% of small and medium business don't even offer insurance to their employees. It no longer makes sense when employers that DO offer health insurance are pushing the rapidly rising costs of premiums onto employees while actual wages remain stagnant. Young people are just as likely to get laid off from a job (if they can find one after college) and can subsequently lose their employer based health insurance. Also young people in the education field or any field with unions are more likely to be subjected to "last hired, first fired." And if they lose their health insurance, their options are COBRA (which in some cases could cost 1/3rd of their salary which they no longer have) or find individual private insurance.

Other people who have individual private insurance are that 40% of full time workers in small and medium businesses whose employers don't offer health insurance, part time workers (often working mothers or YOUNG PEOPLE in college) and people who are self-employed. THESE people are forced into the individual market where premiums and deductibles are EVEN HIGHER. And if these people have any sort of "prexisting condition" they might be denied coverage altogether. Also, some people get insurance only to have their claim denied because they left something out on their application. And the insurance companies are rewarding their employees for finding errors and denying coverage.

Also, most women who give birth are in their 20s so I'd argue that young women and young families are VERY concerned about healthcare reform considering that an average in hospital delivery with no complications (not including prenatal care) is $7,000.00-$10,000.00. Most people don't have that lying around and thus rely on their health insurance to pay for it. Private insurers won't even cover you if you're pregnant. A pregnant woman is also responsible for prenatal care, which if neglected is "technically a violation of the law (according to family law experts, women could be prosecuted for neglect, though they rarely if ever are)" - see link above. Then of course we have to worry about healthcare costs for the babies once they're actually born, but why would young people care about that??

Young people are also more likely to be on their parent's insurance plan (at least the 18-25 set. Most are kicked off at 23 or if they cease to be a full time student) and with the unemployment rate hovering around 10% (not including part time workers who would like to work full time) and job losses surmounting, this age group knows their parents are susceptible to job loss just like anyone else, and their health insurance is in jeopardy.

1 in 3 20somethings does not have health insurance. Most young people do want to have health insurance, and most know that system we have right now is not working. It's leading Americans into bankruptcy. 62% of all personal bankruptcies in the U.S. in 2007 were caused by health problems and 78% of those filers had insurance

The Associated Press is right in that we're not hearing from young people in the media on healthcare reform, but that doesn't mean they don't care. I'd like to see less coverage on people holding up "Obama is a Kenyan Nazi" posters and more coverage on how people of all ages will be affected by reform, and also how the current system is affecting the lives of average Americans.

Don't get me wrong, I think seniors have every right to be concerned about how healthcare reform will affect them. I think it's sad that several media outlets are trying to stop the Democrat's plan for healthcare reform by telling seniors that Obama wants to set up "death panels" and euthanize them, when that has been thoroughly debunked and discredited. (I also find it ironic that most seniors who are protesting a government or public option are on Medicare, a government program).

I am young person (25) and was an Obama supporter after he won his party's nomination. And by "Obama supporter" I do not mean "Obama girl." I actually follow politics and agreed with many of the things he campaigned on, including healthcare reform. So it enrages me to no end to read stuff like this saying that young people are not engaged in healthcare reform. It's hard to always know exactly what's going on, and there's so much politics involved that it takes away from the core reasons why I and many others believe reform is so important and necessary. And, though I'm a self-professed liberal, I honestly do try to listen to both sides and can admit that conservatives do have some legitimate concerns, like for example, making sure that doctors and hospitals get compensated fairly.

However, I have made a personal decision to not listen to any commentator, Republican or Democrat, who says, "we (America) have the best healthcare system in the world." That is simply not true, and to say so is dishonest. The U.S. health care system is ranked 37th in the world by the World Health Organization. We rank 47th in the world for life expectancy. The only thing we rank #1 in is cost. The U. S. health system spends a higher portion of its gross domestic product than any other country

Even though I'm irritated at the idea that young people are "AWOL" from the healhcare fight (actually I prefer "push for healthcare reform") I can see why it seems that way. Heather Smith, executive director of Rock the Vote (geared toward young people) is quoted as saying:

What we've learned by working with this generation through polling is that attacks, rather than dialogue, doesn't attract them. Beyond the screaming, there's a tremendous amount of interest and concern among young people. It's just not something you see.

She's exactly right; young people ARE turned off by the screaming, the insulting, and the attacking. They WANT to be involved, and they know that whatever is decided WILL affect them.

How's that for AWOL??

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