Health care reform is a hot topic these days; the costs of health insurance are rising, and political candidates on both sides are stoking the flames of debate. Most of what is argued seems to apply to seniors and others on Medicare, but in fact, health care reform is critical for everyone. Young Americans, especially those who are starting out in the work force now, will be dealing with the effects of Congressional action for decades to come.
Current Costs of Health Care in the U.S.
Currently, health care costs are increasing at a rate three times greater than wages, and they will continue to do so. Jared Bernstein, White House economist, informs us that 17 percent of our national budget is spent on health care. This amounts to about $2 trillion. If reforms don’t happen, those costs will increase by a few percent every year — 20 years from now, we can expect 30 percent of our budget to be spent on health care. That is trillions of dollars, nearly a third of the United States budget, that will be lost to education, libraries, public services, and job creation. In addition, that means more of every household’s budget will go toward health care instead of basic necessities and improving the quality of life. Small businesses, currently struggling to provide coverage for their employees, will find it even harder — not easier — to pay for insurance plans. Health care reform levels the playing field between large and small business, and small business is the backbone of a healthy economy.
How Obamacare Can Help 19 to 26 Year Olds
Not only will young adults save money over time, more than 2.5 million are already benefiting under the reform laws because they are able to stay on their parents’ health insurance from age 19 to 26. This age group is most likely to be without insurance. Young people with chronic conditions are now able to continue working or attending school while managing their illnesses, and those who suffer accidental injuries can recover without bankrupting themselves or their parents.
What many of the opponents of Obamacare would like people to believe is that the current system is working fine and is sustainable over time. They feel that President Obama is upsetting a perfectly adequate status quo. In fact, as discussed above, the status quo is untenable, and maintaining it would waste untold trillions of dollars without meeting the needs of millions of citizens. The people who will take on most of this financial burden and suffer inadequate health care for decades are the generation that is just starting out in life and those who will enter adulthood and the work force in the near future.
Why Prevention is Key
Where is the money going to come from under Obama’s plan? The reform plan emphasizes effective treatments over more expensive ones and prevention over cure. Preventable conditions, including obesity, smoking, and lack of exercise, make up one third of illness being treated today.
Prevention, obviously, is more affordable and much easier than solving the problem. Therefore, the President hopes to implement reform now to prevent a health care crisis that is unavoidable otherwise and that will harm the most vulnerable citizens, young people just starting out.
Photo courtesy of pixculture via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).