Every year 47 million people in the United States find themselves without health care insurance. Finding health care coverage is an issue college students deal with as they near graduation and realize they will be on their own in the real world. The career choices college students make often have a direct correlation with the health care they receive.
Gail Ziegler, a 2007 graduate of Cabrini College, is a full-time graduate student at American University. She is covered until she is 23 years old through her father’s insurance plan. Upon turning 23 she plans to purchase COBRA, a recommended temporary health care option, until she finds employment after graduating from graduate school. “That’s the plan for now; hopefully it won’t be for too long.” She feels that she has been fortunate enough to have health care coverage up to this point. “It’s always been a priority in my family to have health care insurance. My mother works in a hospital and she has seen what can happen if you don’t have it.”
Like many graduates, Jeremy Stevens, a 2007 Cabrini College graduate, found himself graduating without a job lined up and off his parents’ health insurance plan a few weeks after graduating. Stevens considered himself a healthy 21-year-old and was considering not purchasing any insurance but his parents changed his attitude. “What if I was in a serious car accident and I had no insurance? Would they have to sell their house to pay my medical bills?” Since he did not have a full-time job he purchased short-term health insurance through GradMed.com. “My options were reasonable because the recommended COBRA health insurance is about $300 a month whereas my insurance through GradMed.com was $300 for four months. It is catastrophe insurance, meaning it would help out if I was in a serious accident. I would not use this type of insurance to get medicine for a common cold.” Stevens just accepted a job in which the benefits do not start for three months, so he renewed his short-term insurance.
Jonathan Barnett, current senior English and communication major, has to purchase his own insurance because his family owns a small flower shop with approximately 10 employees. As a result, Barnett’s father purchases health care coverage for $1,047 a month for a family of four. “I don’t have the worst [health care] but I don’t have great coverage.” A trip to the emergency room costs $100, to see a specialist can cost $40-$80, co-pays are $20 and there is no prescription coverage. “I don’t remember the last time I went to the doctor. It makes it hard to keep up with health problems because of the cost of frequent visits and treatment. In my opinion, we are stuck with doctors that aren’t necessarily the best.” Once Barnett graduates, he says that he will be looking for better benefits but he is not going to compromise a good job.
Brian Lynch, a 2007 graduate of St. Joseph’s University, used health care as a deciding factor in choosing a job. A major factor for him was to work in a big corporation as opposed to a small business because large corporations have more comprehensive health care plans and less out-of-pocket expenses. His current employer offered him two health care options, Blue Cross Personal Choice or Aetna Group 2, which would start his first day on the job. Smaller companies offered him a 60 percent-40-percent deal that would start after 90 days, in which the employer covered 40 percent of health care costs and he would have to take care of the rest. “Lincoln Financial Group offered the full package — full health, dental and vision coverage which would also cover my daughter.”
Working as a unionized employee
Kevin Hagerty has worked for Albertson’s Inc. full time for the past 22 years. The union he belongs to is one of the best in the country, he said, and the coverage he gets is rated one of the best. “I am very satisfied with our health coverage,” Theresa Hagerty, wife of Kevin Hagerty, said. “With our plan, our kids can go to preferred doctors even when they are away at college because there is a huge network of doctors and hospitals. Wherever you go you can get help.”As a result of having such a good plan, the Hagerty family can take advantage of routine preventative screenings, reimbursed gym memberships, two dental visits a year and immunizations, among other benefits.
Lindsey Harner, a junior psychology major, has state-provided health insurance. “We have very basic insurance,” she said. “The co-pays are low, but they expect four people to be healthy because they won’t pay for it.” The state-provided health insurance is more for doctor visits, not big emergencies. Having health insurance is “definitely something I think about,” she said. “You grow up taking insurance for granted and then when you realize you have to pay for it, it’s something you worry about.”
Working under contract
An employee at a local company was first hired as a contracted employee through another company. The options for health care were too expensive so she researched other options to find a more affordable plan.
At her job, she was offered “outrageous monthly rates for healthcare coverage. The best coverage was entirely too expensive compared to the amount of money I was being paid and the cheapest plan didn’t include the specifics I wanted. I then set out and researched and found that I could get an individual plan on my own, cheaper than what the company was offering me. Through Aetna, I was able to have an affordable monthly payment while being able to keep my general care physician.”
Paula Turnbach has been unemployed for nine months. She was laid off unexpectedly and with the job loss came the immediate loss of her benefits. About a week after she was let go, the corporate office mailed her information about getting insurance through COBRA. Unfortunately, the COBRA coverage was so expensive that after two months she switched to Aetna. Some health care that the family was receiving before the job loss had to be cut back because it was no longer covered. “Her major concerns during that time were her children, which is me and my sister,” Grayce Turnbach, daughter of Paula Turnbach, said. “We were always financially stable and my mom was really counting on her income to be able to support herself and us. It was really hard for her especially when she saw that the COBRA plan they offered was $650 and she had no money coming in to afford such a pricey insurance plan.” Turnbach now has a part-time job that does not offer any benefits, so her family is still paying for insurance out of pocket.