Across the nation, news stations are focusing on one big issue, the issue that could change the life of every American, the issue that transcends party lines, the issue that could make or break Barack Obama’s presidency: health care reform. The National Census Bureau estimates that, as of 2007, about 48 million United States citizens did not have health insurance. This means that 48 million people (about 8,800 times the number of undergraduate students at USF) did not have the ability to go to the doctor without paying exorbitant fees. But how does health care reform actually affect college students?
The United States’ health care currently works in a very intricate way. Citizens across the nation pay taxes to the government. Some of these taxes are invested into healthcare programs like Medicare (government-funded health insurance for citizens over the age or 65) and others are invested into insurance companies that provide health insurance to citizens under the age of 65. Each company works independently from the government, forming its own requirements for its customers and making profits based on how much it charges them. Most insurance companies work through employers so that each employee of a certain company must buy into a certain health insurance plan. If a person is not provided insurance through his or her employer, then he or she must buy private insurance. Private insurance companies, however, have the liberty of rejecting however many health care applicants they see fit. For example, if someone applies for health insurance with diabetes, a heart condition, or some form of cancer, that person will most likely not be accepted because health insurance companies consider these applicants to be “high-risk.” In other words, the health insurance companies do not want to cover people who would need a lot of medical attention because they will cost the company more money.
Right now, college students are often left out of the health care cycle. Because there is no universal coverage, college students often stay under their parents’ health insurance plan or buy coverage through whatever plan their school offers. With a college tuition already costing a small fortune, many families do not have the money to buy decent health care for their college student. In addition, after graduation most twenty-something-year-olds are no longer accepted as dependents by their parents’ health insurance company, while also not being eligible for coverage through their previous school. Because of this, many students graduate college and join the work force with no way to afford or be eligible for health insurance. Every time they get sick, need medication, or experience some health-related problem, they have no option but to either pay hundreds of dollars per appointment, go to the emergency room, or simply ignore the problem. All of these are relatively ineffective options.
What is Barack Obama’s administration proposing? Free health care for every citizen of the United States of America.
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as it sounds. In order to make health care available to everyone in America a few things would have to be sacrificed.
First, tax money would have to fund the actual health care system, opposed to the insurance companies. Investments in the insurance companies would most likely suffer as the strong demand for private insurance decreases.
Second, taxes would have to be raised and distributed more effectively. Homeowners might have to increase their taxes between two and five percent, and sales tax could potentially be influenced as well. The trade-off: more of your paycheck being taxed in exchange for full coverage of all medical expenses.
The third, and probably most important sacrifice that Americans would need to make, would be our loyalty to capitalism. We have socialized our schools, our national defense, and our police force with very little protesting from the masses, but some extremists have labeled socialized health care “anti-American”.
If Obama’s administration manages to establish a form of universal health care, all college students and recent graduates (as well as every other citizen) would have access to all necessary health care without needing the consent of their employer or acceptance by an insurance company, although it is likely that those same students and graduates would also have to pay higher taxes.
Laura Waldron is a freshman politics major