The Health Care Conflict

In November 2008, students from the State University of New York at New Paltz cheered and celebrated when Barack Obama, whose campaign promises included sweeping changes to the health care system, had won the presidential election. In this predominantly liberal enclave, support for the health care bill Obama recently signed into law is not hard to find. But while many students rejoiced the passing of the bill, others said they cringed while wondering how this would affect them, their generation and their futures.

Some viewed it as a violation of their rights, angered by the hefty costs of insuring an additional 32 million Americans. Others felt like it was an attack on their age bracket.

Zachary Keck, a third-year political science major, said the methods being implemented to pay for health care are “terrible for our age group.”

“Since we’re generally healthy, we’re going to pay more insurance than we are going to use,” said Keck. “And that extra money is going to go to paying for older Americans in their 50s who have a lot of health concerns.”

Among Keck’s other concerns about the bill is the fear education will suffer cuts due to the tremendous price of covering all Americans.

“What is usually one of the first things affected when there’s a budget crunch? Higher education,” said Keck. “Kids our age don’t vote in large numbers, so it’s safe for politicians to cut that. So, I see our generation, like usually, the group paying the most for this bill both in the short term and when we are older and have to deal with the budget deficit that our parents have left for us.”

Students like Emily Sobel, a third-year Asian studies major, take issue with the bill’s mandate that all citizens must eventually purchase a federally approved health care plan.

“This is a major infringement on basic rights,” said Sobel. “It is each person’s right to decide if he or she wants health insurance, how much of it and how much to pay for it.”

Sobel also said she dislikes the fact those who choose not to purchase a health care plan are penalized with a tax and, if they don’t pay, are jailed.

“I believe in the rights this country was founded on, individual and states’ rights,” she said. “My choice of health care options is my own responsibility, and it should remain that way.”

Though some may not be happy about it, the bill has been passed by Congress and signed by Obama. While the debate continues, some feel the bill could potentially bring positive changes to the country. Others, however, are doubtful.

“As I see it, the bill has been gutted enough to be ineffective, but not enough to leave our rights intact,” said Sobel.

Sobel argued that the public option, which she is also against, provided “the only motivation the insurance companies could possibly have had to be reasonable.”

Although the government has mandated all individuals must have health insurance, she said, the bill has failed to make insurance companies accountable and therefore they will not be forced to make the insurance affordable. To Sobel, a different solution would have been more effective.

“I think if Congress had been interested in really reforming health care in America, the answer would have been to start actually enforcing the anti-monopoly and anti-collusion laws we already have on the books,” she said. “The insurance industries run on unspoken rules of price-fixing. Remove that, and a true free market would establish reform without further government interference.”

During the health care debate that preceded the bill’s passing, the Republican Party became the main united opponent of the bill. GOP.gov, the website of Republicans in Congress, compiled a list of repercussions the bill would have on young Americans. Including aspects of the bill that Republicans consider to be negative for all Americans such as bans on private individual health insurance and higher health insurance premiums, GOP.gov also listed taxes for those who cannot afford coverage, taxes on jobs that will hurt young workers and a rising debt which they said is a “fiscal time bomb for future generations.”

Many Republican political youth organizations such as the Young Republican National Federation (YRNF), whose membership includes Republicans between the ages of 18 and 40, have expressed outrage and disapproval of the bill.

“The bill is especially bad for young adults, as it would impose so-called ‘community rating’, prohibiting insurance companies from providing discounts for coverage of low-risk consumers,” said  Policy Chairman Dave Smith in a YRNF statement. “It also enforces an ‘individual mandate’, forcing young adults to pay for coverage they may not want or need.”

Students like Sobel and Keck can only watch as proposed changes to the American health care system will continue to be implemented through the year 2018.

“At the moment I am not affected or benefited by the bill,” said Sobel. “However, as soon as I graduate and leave my parents’ insurance, I’m sure I will be crushed under the weight of the deductibles.”