Health & Science: Obamacare For Generation Y
Published: Sunday, September 29, 2013
Updated: Sunday, September 29, 2013 23:09
Obamacare has passed. It’s been deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court. Yes, this is old news. But open enrollment in the Health Care Marketplace under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) begins tomorrow, Oct.1, government shutdown or not, and this has quite a few people riled up. As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has somewhat callously said of the persisting opposition, “Obamacare has been the law for four years. Why don’t they get a life and talk about something else?” The law never even came close to the socialist apocalypse that many feared (God-forbidden universal public health coverage), but one sticky point to the tome of a health care bill that ultimately passed is of particular interest to the primary age demographic at Boston College: the health insurance mandate, especially as it pertains to young people.
Let’s be honest. We as BC students reside in a special place when it comes to these health care cost debates. All of us have health insurance right now, either through the Blue Cross Blue Shield Student Blue Plan that BC offers for about $2,400, by way of that pesky waiver that has to be filled out on Agora each year, or through some other health insurance that most of us probably get through our parents’ employers.
Under the ACA, those of us lucky enough to have health insurance through our parents, myself included, are permitted to stay on our parent’s plans through our 26th birthday, providing a good deal of leeway to get our feet on the ground and find our own health plans through graduate school, employers, etc.
So we’re covered … for now. But the situation starts to get tricky as we age, progress in our careers, and perhaps end up working for a smaller company that cannot provide the benefits that a larger organization can. And the crux of the debate often amounts to the question of whether someone young and fit really needs health insurance at all, or whether it should just be thought of as another optional safeguard, like an iPhone AppleCare protection plan.
A common argument that I have heard against mandating health insurance for young adults goes something like this: “Why should a young and healthy person be forced to shell out a monthly premium for insurance that they don’t really need? They would be better suited having that extra couple hundred dollars per month to put toward more useful things.” While this may be sound logic, and while this mode of thinking certainly falls in line with the philosophic ideal of personal economic freedom, I think it is incredibly shortsighted.
There is nothing more inherently valuable than a person’s health, so why would one forgo the peace of mind that comes from knowing that they would be taken care of in the case of a major unexpected health catastrophe, only for the sake of slightly more disposable income? The marginal benefit is minimal but the risk is colossal, and it would be far smarter to set aside personal funds for insurance of health than just about anything else, especially given the extremity of out-of-pocket health care costs in the U.S.
The Affordable Care Act even especially tailors to young people in this way, according to healthcare.gov, offering those under 30 a choice of several “basic ‘catastrophic coverage plans’” from which to choose through the marketplace, granting lower-than-average monthly premiums as well as the assurance that if anything goes terribly wrong health-wise, at least whole lives won’t have to be financially ruined as well.
And by the way, if anyone really, really doesn’t want insurance they can pay a $95 fine for the whole year to get out of it, at least in 2014. And by the way, nobody even has to pay that fine if their premium would amount to 8 percent of their monthly income or if they are too poor to file a federal tax return. And by the way, if they earn an amount within the poverty line they would be eligible for Medicaid anyway.
The best way to invest in the future of a nation is to invest in the health and security of its people. We certainly have an extra responsibility as BC students to really live out our call to be men and women for others by working toward ways to care for every individual, regardless of economic status, place of residence, or pre-existing condition.
But the Affordable Care Act isn’t just about compassion. It’s smart, especially for the young adults who are the future of this country. And tomorrow people will begin to see why.