Getting ready to graduate soon? Congratulations.
But don’t start celebrating so fast, dear students.
There are a few things you might want to consider before attending that party-to-end-all-parties or hitting the road on an epic journey a la Jack Kerouac. First off, you’re graduating into a work climate in which unemployment rates continue to creep upward, making that first job a little more difficult to nab. And if you get sick or injured — regardless of whether you’ve been able to snag a job — it’s likely that the fractured American health care system might not be able to help you.
You might end up one of the millions of Americans that doesn’t have health insurance and has to pay for everything from routine checkups to emergency-room procedures out of pocket.
The cost concern doesn’t end for the uninsured graduate, however. Insured graudates will likely lose access to relatively affordable student health care, or thier premiums might go up. And if they’re insured under their parents’ health plan, chances are that there are post-graduation time limits preventing them from staying on it indefinitely.
Compounding this, of course, is the soft job market: if new grads have trouble finding employment, they can’t bank on employer-provided healthcare.
Perhaps the silver lining is that health care was one of the hottest topics on the campaign trail for Barack Obama and John McCain — both called for reform to a fundamentally flawed system. Now that Obama has become president-elect, health care is among the topics he must tackle first. And he especially owes it to the young voters who overwhelmingly bolstered his win to leave them with more than a stump speech. After all, these are the constituents faced with dismal financial prospects but the potential for ever-increasing health care bills.
Indeed, if he worked with Congress to reform the system, Obama’s health care plan might provide a reprieve to all Americans, including young grads. The plan promised to lower insurance premiums and have all children receive some degree of coverage. It would also require insurance providers to cover medical expenses regardless of pre-existing conditions. Obama also wants to establish a health care exchange plan that would give adults a wide range of private and public insurance providers from which to choose.
The rub is that the promises are up in the air and yet to be enacted, so students should use the same energy employed for get-out-the-vote efforts to demand reform — and make sure it doesn’t bypass their demographic.
This way, in addition to just taking care of families with kids, Obama keeps in mind the country’s next generation of young professionals. Politicians have the reputation of forgetting some of their campaign-trail promises, but this is one topic Obama simply cannot ignore.
Those who signed on to the promise of “change” must demand it.
Ensuring that Obama fulfills his self-assigned goals on healthcare should be top priority for his constituents, particularly past and present university students.