Life after college: the struggle to find health insurance in
Many students in college speak of a "bubble" that shelters them from the harsh realities of the outside world. One of these realities is the state of the American health care system.
Upon graduating, young adults enter the real world--no longer covered by their parents' health insurance. Because of this, recent graduates become involved in the health care system when they are forced to seek coverage elsewhere, with varying degrees of success.
For Jamie Warner '09, health insurance played a major role in her post-college plans. "I didn't even consider jobs that didn't offer solid health care plans," she says. She is currently working for a research company called Forrester Research and is covered under a Blue Cross Blue Shield plan with great benefits, including dental and vision.
Warner acknowledges that she is very fortunate to have good health insurance, or even any health insurance at all. She was "definitely worried" about finding adequate coverage after graduating. "I probably would have gone to grad school immediately if I couldn't get a job because I can stay on my parents' insurance as long as I'm in a school program," she says.
A major reason recent college graduates are anxious about health insurance is because many of them cannot find jobs due to the economic recession. Chris Van Alstyne '09 is still covered under his parents' health insurance, which is good, he says, because "like many members of the Class of '09, I still don't have a real job, just an internship." His internship does not provide health insurance.
Sarah Stevens '09 parents' health insurance did not cover her after she graduated, so she purchased a cheap short-term plan with an incredibly high deductible while maintaining a summer job. She is now working as an environmental educator at the Institute for Applied Ecology in Oregon, which offers a health insurance plan through AmeriCorps.
"It was great to be able to cancel my short-term plan," Stevens says. "I suppose I'm satisfied with the coverage....To be honest I haven't made a single claim on it yet, so I haven't really looked into the details," she says. "Fingers crossed to remain healthy."
This seems to be the mindset of many college graduates, who don't have to deal with the difficulties of navigating the American health care system because they are in good health. Stevens says that while the health insurance issue is "definitely something that I consider to be important," her good health has allowed her to remain somewhat distanced from the current national debate, and she admits to living in sort of a "bubble."
Jeff Ruhle '09, who will still be covered under his parents' plan until the end of 2010, shares similar sentiments. "I am pretty unconnected at this time, and I don't know a whole lot about the debate."
Van Alstyne acknowledges the unfortunate reality that "for those with health care, few are happy with the treatment they receive and the high premiums they must pay." The time may come when even healthy young adults will need to make a claim, and their experience will most likely be a frustrating one.
While not all recent graduates support the universal health care plan backed by the Obama administration, many recognize that something needs to be done to fix the current system. "I'm not sure the current plan being proposed is actionable," Warner says, "but I'm positive changes need to be made." She stresses the upsetting truth that "in the current economic climate, many people do not have access to basic health care."
Van Alstyne reiterates this point. "I believe everyone should have the right to health care, regardless of race, sex, age, pre-existing conditions or current employment status," he says. He is strongly in favor of Obama's universal health care plan because "people shouldn't be denied care because they are already sick or too poor to afford the treatment they need. No one should live in fear of bankruptcy due to unexpected medical emergencies."
Van Alstyne and other recent college graduates feel strongly about this issue, because "as a society, we should build a health care system that prioritizes our health and well-being, not the profits and dividends given to the insurance industry and their wall-street investors," he says. "When we go to a hospital, the first question asked shouldn't be 'What provider do you have?,' but rather 'What can we do to help?'"