Letter to the editor

Healthcare needs to be student priority

Though it is not difficult to find political opinions about healthcare policy around campus, few students know what the new healthcare law will mean for them.  Since many students are young and healthy, we tend to not spend too much time worrying about our insurance coverage, which can make healthcare seem very political and abstract.

Unfortunately, medical emergencies can affect young adults just as they do everyone else.  Having a policy that insures affordable and quality healthcare can prevent your $10,000 visit to an emergency department from leaving you heavily in debt.

Two weeks ago the Daily Trojan ran the inspiring story of Joshua Lilientstein, a Keck School of Medicine student who fought against testicular cancer.  Though his cancer is thankfully in remission, his costs exceeded what the university health policy was willing to pay, and there was a brief time that he was fully responsible for his cancer treatments.  Had Joshua had the opportunity to remain under his parent’s employer-based policy, he might not be suffering from mounting debt and a low credit score today.

As university students, it is critical that we educate ourselves about our new rights and responsibilities under the new healthcare law.  Josh’s struggle with insurance companies should encourage each of us to be proactive in finding affordable, quality healthcare coverage.

Thankfully, the new health reform law has many provisions in place specifically tailored to offer students higher quality, more affordable health care coverage.  On Sept. 23, policies in the Affordable Health Care Act came into effect that give young adults many new consumer protections and benefits, including most prominently:

— Young adults can stay on their parents’ plan until age 26.

— Insurers cannot drop policies when you get sick because of paperwork errors.

These simple policies are a huge victory in the efforts to secure healthcare coverage for young adults.  An estimated 196,000 Californian young adults could benefit from the provision that allows them to stay on their family coverage plan until age 26, according to the consumer group California Public Interest Research Group.

Finding health insurance coverage for the first time can be somewhat intimidating.  However, there are many resources for students to learn more about the new protections in the healthcare law.  To help young people and all consumers inform themselves about what the new law will mean for them, CalPIRG has produced The Young Person’s Guide to Health Insurance.

The guide offers clear, factual information about how young people can make the most of the new healthcare provisions and instructions on applying to join or rejoin your parents’ family insurance plan; comparing private insurance options online at www.healthcare.gov; and of course, finding a job with great health insurance benefits

CalPIRG volunteers will be distributing this guide to students, health centers and doctors’ offices across our area.  It is also available online at http://www.studentpirgs.org/healthcareguide.

As Joshua’s story demonstrates, students can’t take health for granted.  By arming ourselves with information about our new rights, we can make sure we stay healthy — and debt-free — to graduation and beyond.

David Mittelstein

Chapter president, CalPIRG

Sophomore, biomedical  engineering

2 replies
  1. pam
    pam says:

    Students need to know how to navigate the healhcare system as it is now, but it would be even better if those that are 20-30 could pool their technical genius and truly FIX the system. There is so much nonsense and waste in healthcare, it needs a major overhaul. I have worked in healthcare over 30 years and it is such a mess, it is going to take someone (or some group) to really expose the garbage and revise the system and make it easier to navigate and manage. It is truly a mess and a shame that it has evolved/deteriorated to the system we have. I am not talking about the providers, most of them are providing good care, it is the rest of the stuff they have to deal with that does NOT contribute to quality of care. If good providers were able to do their job instead of all the paperwork nonsense and insurance games, we would all be much better off. The problem is most people don’t know how bad it really is and the prediction is it is going to get worse, let me tell you, if something doesn’t change, it will be a whole lot worse and not just because of health care reform but because the nonsense just gets in the way. In the age of technology and all the talented youth we have in this country and all the unemployed business people, this job should be tackled and solved.

  2. J
    J says:

    “Had Joshua had the opportunity to remain under his parent’s employer-based policy, he might not be suffering from mounting debt and a low credit score today.”

    Wouldn’t the issue be the university’s health policy? And why it wouldn’t cover his cancer treatments?

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