Alarming number of students uninsured

By Meghan Smith
March 26, 2009

Megan Pellegrino

Young adults are the nation’s largest group of uninsured-13.2 million nationally in 2007, according to the latest figures from the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit research group in New York.

This group of uninsured has been named the “Young invincibles,” people in their 20s who neglect purchasing health insurance either because they feel they are healthy enough or because expensive policies are out of reach.

Most health insurance policies drop students from their parents’ plan after they graduate college, leaving them with the daunting question of ‘now what?’

“I was actually cut from my parents’ health insurance a few weeks before graduation,” Maura Brennan, Cabrini alumna class of 2008, said. “Luckily we were able to make a deal with them because I was still playing lacrosse, so I was covered until the end of the season.”

After six months of being a college graduate, Shane Evans, Cabrini alumnus class of 2008, was removed from his step-father’s insurance plan.

“Unless I was going to return to school within the six months, I had to have a plan of my own, through a job or otherwise,” Evans said.

In an effort to provide more affordable health care to all Pennsylvanians, the Western Pennsylvania Coalition for Single-Payer Health care is working for passage of the “United States National Health Care Act” also known as the “Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act” (H.R. 676).

H.R. 676 provides for single-payer health insurance for all U.S. residents. It covers all medically necessary care; primary care and prevention; inpatient; and long-term care to name a few.

“Single-payer health care can be a great alternative out there [for recent grads and young adults in the work force],” Kristin Nicely Colangelo, assistant professor of social work, said. Working temporary positions and entry-level jobs with no benefits, health insurance is “expensive as hell,” Colangelo explained, “And the most common sacrifice we make is our health.”

Single-payer health care, which covers everyone, is a form of universal health care where one organization makes all the payments to the private health care professionals and institutions that the patient chooses.

Colangelo believes that H.R. 676 is a big step in the right direction towards fixing America’s health care. “The crime is that Americans are forced to choose between their human rights: do I want to eat? Do I want an adequate home or health insurance?” Colangelo said.

Student loans and little-to-no income are major reasons young adults cannot afford health insurance but they often fail to realize the risk of adding thousands of dollars in medical debt if something were to happen.

“Being that my employer doesn’t offer a full-time plan, I was on my own to find one that suited me. Given my budget, I just looked for the cheapest plan that covers all the basics and had my doctor on it,” Evans said. He currently has insurance with Aetna, which covers medical and dental.

Brennan, who accepted a job a month after graduation, is also attending graduate school pursuing a degree in paralegal studies, which allows her to remain under her parents’ health insurance plan with Keystone.

Colangelo encourages students to take H.R. 676 and single-payer health care seriously and realize the benefits it offers to our current health care industry.

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Meghan Smith

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