Today, I was reading a report by the Urban Institute entitled "The Cost of Failure" which detailed what will happen if we don't pass health care reform. The numbers are staggering and, in my shock, I could not help but share the information with some of my friends. About 30 seconds after I opened my mouth, I realized my friends either a) didn't care or b) didn't understand. Regardless of what the case may be, this experience got me thinking about health care reform and the degree to which young people have involved themselves in this vast and impactful conversation.
As students, we are among the most politically apathetic, despite the fact that we are both the most able as well as the ones who will be entering the workforce as this health care reform would begin to trickle in. Because of this, it is imperative that we not only understand what the bill would do, but also what we have to gain so that we can take action -- here at the University of Richmond and across the nation, we have a gold mine full of students who are able to articulate themselves to members of Congress and to do it well! Imagine what would happen if we all did! But there has been little campus-wide buzz about the possibility of health care reform. Let me share with you some numbers and, I hope, get people talking.
According to the Urban Institute's report, only about half of employed people would receive coverage from their employers by 2020. OK, so maybe you won't get employer-based insurance, why not buy an individual plan or, if you're on the fast track to getting a family, a family plan? Be prepared to dish out the dollars -- the economists who wrote this article project that "even in the best case, single premiums would rise to $7,800 and family premiums would rise to $19,500 by 2020, increasing much faster than incomes." This is because premiums are expected to increase by 67 percent (in the best-case scenario) during the next 10 years -- I doubt my meager just-out-of-college-in-the-middle-of-a-recession salary will increase at a rate that will keep up.
Although I know it's our thing as the 20-something generation to not care, to believe we are indestructible and to be politically apathetic, right now I know most of us cannot afford to not care about health care. Yes, the cost of health-care reform is shocking, but in addition to the projected 70+ million people who will be uninsured if we don't act, health care costs are projected to be around $471 billion by 2010.
This week, Congress will be voting on whether it will accept the Senate's version of the health care bill. This vote is our last shot at getting any sort of reform passed. As students, we have been prepared to articulate ourselves and to do so well -- in order to prevent the terrible "best-case scenario" depicted above, we must use these skills and contact our members of Congress. Although the bill may not be perfect, it's a step in the right direction. In order to keep taking bold strides, we must take this first step. Otherwise, be sure your post-graduation plans include a plan to deal with health-care costs in a slow-moving job market.