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Health care raises concerns at UWRF

October 1, 2009

Health care reform has become a major issue on the top of Washington’s agenda lately, and as the debate rages on, college students are forced to look to the future.

“Most students are covered by their parents and never have had to worry about health insurance, but I think students need to pay attention to this issue because it’s huge,” Director of Student Health Services Alice Reilly-Myklebust said. “It would behoove us all to get educated and to learn about other healthcare plans in the world, to research and to make sure it is accurate information — it is something that effects everyone.”

It is becoming more common for students to not have insurance or to not be covered in preventive care, according to Reilly-Myklebust.

“During my senior year I was more worried about not having health insurance after I graduated than not finding a job,” Erin McDermott, a Chalmer Davee Library staff member, said. “In order to stay on my parents health plan I have to pay four hundred dollars a month—and that is for minimum coverage.”

The overall goal is to increase health insurance coverage to near-universal levels and to stop the annual cost increase that is making health care out of reach for low-income families and small businesses.

“Something needs to be done to reign in costs a little bit, and we need to work together to make it better. There is something wrong with working full time and an entire salary going towards insurance. Healthcare is getting so expensive and the economy is getting worse,” Reilly-Myklebust said.

Many proposals would subsidize insurance for people with low incomes and create government regulated insurance markets for people without coverage provided by their employers. The most controversial proposal includes a publicly-run insurance plan that requires individuals to buy coverage, according to Marcia Clemmitt, author of Health Care Reform.

People opposed to the plan argue that a universal health care plan would be too expensive and would give the government too much control in health care. Extremists accused the outcome of the plan would be established “death panels” to determine treatment to elderly and disabled patients. Others who oppose this plan are uninsured young people who believe to be healthy and think insurance is too expensive and not worth it.

Advocates of universal coverage believe the plan will increase savings and benefits and will make low-cost preventive care available to everyone so the uninsured are not forced to wait until their illness reaches the critical stage.

“A lot of families don’t go to the doctor because they can’t afford it,” UWRF student Alyssa Eder said. “I have insurance right now, but I still have thousands of dollars in medical bills [that is not covered by my insurer].”
Other advocates for a universal health plan are pushing for a single-payer coverage plan where the government would act as the insurer in a tax-based system, much like Medicare, a public single-payer insurance plan for elderly. Supporters for a single-payer coverage plan believe it will cause private insurance companies to improve, according to Clemmitt.

“I think it will hold [private insurance companies] accountable,” Eder said.

Most proposals include a government-run insurance plan as a choice for the insurance buyers, but conservatives and insurers are against this because they are worried it would put private insurance companies out of business.

“It’s going to be impossible to create a plan that makes everyone happy, but I don’t think it can get much worse,” Reilly-Myklebust said. “It’s going to take time and patience and everyone working together.”