Two days after the Massachusetts special election put health care on the back burner in Washington (that's assuming it was even on the front burner), Governor Jim Doyle announced a non-state funded health-care plan for adults without dependants. The BadgerCare Basic program would cost enrolled Wisconsin residents $130 per month and is designed to benefit those 20,000 people currently on the BadgerCare Plus waiting list.
BadgerCare Basic is another attempt to target the childless, and most often young, adult demographic whose members have been crossing their fingers and walking the streets without insurance for years. Despite Washington's attempts to demonize childless adults without insurance, accusing them of burdening the system and attributing to Emergency Room expenses, little is being done to help them get coverage.
As students, the debate about ""what to do with these freeloaders burdening the health-care system"" is of great importance. Especially in today's job market, a well-paying job with benefits is no guarantee after graduation. As a result, many four-year graduates are continuing their education or settling for hourly work. Those who were fortunate enough to be covered by a parent's health insurance plan as undergrads are likely to see that coverage expire; and hourly work, more often than not, does not provide full benefits and a 401K.
Due to the rising costs, students and young adults just entering the work force cannot afford health care when a doctor's visit can cost upwards of $60 (a conservative estimate, mind you). The health-care reform bill (i.e. insurance reform) in Washington does not aim to reduce health care costs for individuals without insurance; rather it seeks to mandate insurance coverage, furthering the financial burden of many Americans.
While Doyle's BadgerCare Basic plan could potentially benefit those who currently don't have the option of purchasing health insurance through an employer, the $130 per month price tag still leaves the bare bones coverage out of reach for many Wisconsin residents. Let's hope that the BadgerCare Plus program receives more funding from a sustainable source, allowing it to accept more participants and to support the health care needs of low-income adults in Wisconsin, especially in light of President Obama and Washington's failure to do so.
The proposed federal health-care bills that were up for vote in both the Senate and the House of Representatives would have mandated insurance coverage for everyone. This would require individuals to purchase insurance coverage, either from a private provider of their choosing or from the government. Citizens that fail to do so would have their wages garnished.
Unconstitutionally forcing citizens to purchase government subsidized health insurance from private, for-profit insurance companies does not solve the health-care problems in this country. Additionally, being forced to have health insurance is not the same as being required to carry car insurance. For one thing, you can choose whether or not to have a car, but choosing citizenship is a little more tricky. Secondly, you only get penalized for not carrying car insurance in the event that you get caught not carrying car insurance; that is to say, the government isn't going to sic the IRS on you if you fail to carry car insurance. And thirdly, the government isn't increasing the customer base and increasing the profits of a select insurance provider(s) by mandating car insurance, unlike what would happen if both proposed health reform bills pass.
But I've digressed. What is of concern here, especially for young adults and students such as ourselves, is access to, or lack there of, affordable health care. BadgerCare Plus is a great starting point, but it lacks adequate funding as BadgerCare Basic points out. We need a solution that provides adequate health care for all without bankrupting the government. A $130 per month bare bones health insurance plan isn't going to accomplish this. First of all, it's really not that affordable. It makes more sense to save the $130 per month for the one or two doctor's visits a year most healthy young adults need. And secondly, the coverage is too minimal.
During college, medical bills only add to the financial stresses. Helping students find access to affordable health care, not sticking them with more expenses, would support both a student's physical health and mental growth. As future graduates, current students should be thinking about the financial responsibilities facing them in the not so distant future. Do we want to add mandated health insurance payments to a list of financial commitments that already include student loan repayments?
Kathy Dittrich is a senior majoring in English and French. We welcome all feedback. Please send responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.