Congress should expand coverage for all students, not repeal it

Young people shouldn't have to pick between debt and death

Imagine you feel a serious sharp pain near your stomach. You’re alone at your apartment, roommates won’t be home for some time. You text a friend for advice. Their reply: “You might want to go to the hospital.” This is not an option for you. You don’t have insurance, and the bill could push you even farther into debt than the $15,000 you’ve taken out to get you through senior year.

So what would you do? Would you wait it out? Would you go to the hospital?

Before the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a number of demographics were unable to attain health insurance. The ACA provided multiple provisions that covered more Americans.

However, no provision was more relevant to the collegiate community than the ability to remain under one's parents' coverage until 26 years old. Before the ACA, students over the age of 19 were no longer able to remain under their parents' coverage.

The scenario I described above is one of appendicitis. According to one source, appendicitis is the “most common abdominal emergency” found in young adults. Leaving it untreated can be life threatening.

While in most cases, going to the hospital wouldn’t be too big of a deal, because young people normally don’t have very high risk of hospitalization, too many circumstances remain where a young person may need to utilize emergency services. Appendicitis is one of them.

Being uninsured should not be a reason they don’t go to a hospital.

These stories aren’t as uncommon as they should be, and regardless of political affiliation we should work to completely eliminate them.

As our senators work to repeal (and replace?) they need to defend this protection for young adults.

To their credit, neither of the two proposed bills have even come close to changing this part of the law (thanks, Obama). However, calls for full repeal and then replace later have been ramping up.

A full repeal of the bill would mean that students would be on their own for getting health coverage. Our senators should not consider this, because of situations like the one described above. No student should put their life at risk because they don’t have health insurance.

But even Obamacare isn’t a solution for all students. Not everyone’s parents have health insurance.

Dante Mitchell, a senior studying public service and public policy major at ASU and the vice chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party, said students need expanded coverage because it's false to believe that most parents have insurance.

"Many students do not have help from their parents, and it's usually not by choice," he said.

As a replacement bill comes to fruition, Arizona Senators should vote for a bill that expands coverage for students in college.

While this wouldn’t protect all young people under 26, students stand at the most risk because it’s relatively impossible to hold down a full-time school load with a full-time job that includes health benefits.

Of course we wouldn’t have these kinds of problems if we had Medicare for all. And yes, I’m saying this as a person who has never before supported the idea. 

But living in the richest country on Earth, I hold the belief that no one, not just students, should ever have to make a decision between debt and death.


Reach the columnist at jarwood@asu.edu or follow @jimsthebeast on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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