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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Doyle's youth insurance request a healthy step

Last Thursday, Gov. Jim Doyle sent out an executive order clarifying an existing statute on health insurance to young adults. This would allow citizens in their 20's to be covered under their parents' health-care plan starting January 1 next year. Any Wisconsin resident would be eligible if you are between 17 and 27 years of age, unmarried, and either not eligible for health coverage through your employer or your premium contribution is more than the amount your parents would pay to add you to their plan. Currently, only childless full-time students can stay in their parents plan till the age of 25. But with the passage of this new policy, potentially 100,000 young adults in Wisconsin could benefit.

For new beneficiaries and their parents, this is something to celebrate. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, one out of every three Americans between the ages of 19 and 29 is uninsured. Even within UW-Madison, about ten percent of domestic students are uninsured. The extension of the maximum age limit is definitely encouraging news for graduate students. Many Ph.D. candidates wouldn't need to worry about their coverage throughout their program years.

Other young adults beyond campus would appreciate the policy even more. In this economy where ""tough"" has become the default adjective, they are among the hardest-hit groups. Only 20 percent of 2009 college graduates who applied for jobs actually secured employment by graduation, according to National Association of Colleges and Employers. That doesn't even take into account their peers without college degrees. The unemployment rate for people aged between 25 and 29 is 11 percent. Shouldering the burden of insurance premiums is obviously unrealistic for many of them. For these fresh job seekers, concerns for health coverage have taken a toll on the pursuit of their dreams. I know of a recent UW-Milwaukee graduate who just began driving a forklift for Walmart. As a finance major, he always had the ambition to start his own business, but ""now they (Walmart) pay for my health insurance."" Thanks to Doyle, more of our aspirations no longer have to fade away because of restricting harsh realities.

Of course, skeptical voices will always arise despite all the merit of such a coverage expansion. State Rep. Robin Vos, R-Racine, didn't see the rule as sustainable and said it would just add more burdens to taxpayers and employers.

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Vos disingenuously made the plan sound like a bold deviation from public interest. In fact, Wisconsin is not the only state ensuring a better future for its youths by ensuring their health care. With the exception of Michigan, most neighboring states have similar policies in this area. Ohio, for example, allows unmarried young adults to remain on their parent's insurance up to age 28, so long as they remain a dependent on their parent's tax return. In Illinois, the upper age limit is 26 for all unmarried dependents. Wisconsin is just following the common practice by showing more concern for its future. As our society is getting increasingly dynamic, adjustments like this are badly needed.

Granted, Doyle's order is not thorough health-care reform, not even for young adults. Although insurers will not be able to deny an eligible dependent starting next year, they can still apply individual rates to each applicant. That means some of us, especially those with pre-existing conditions, may not see big savings from the change. Additionally, only unmarried dependents can stay on their parents' insurance under the new rule. But how about married young adults? A marriage certificate doesn't necessarily mean one is wholly capable of paying all of their own bills. Sometimes, young couples who marry early face more hardships than single dependents.

By signing this rule, Doyle signed his concern for Wisconsin's future into law. While talk of health-care reform has often been insulated from the layman, Doyle offered a concise benefit plan readily understood by everyone. Now with their health insurance in place, Wisconsin youths can pursue their dreams at full force.

Qi Gu is a junior majoring in journalism. We welcome all feedback. Please send responses to opinion@dailycardinal.com. 

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