By Ivy Brashear
Most college students probably aren’t concerned with healthcare reform. However, the reality is, they should be just as concerned about the proposed healthcare reform bill as the general population. “About one-third of our students don’t have health insurance,” Dr. Pradeep Bose, director of Student Health Services, said. He says this means that an estimated 5,000 Eastern students have no way to pay for basic off campus healthcare.
Bose said college students are an odd demographic in regards to health insurance because some are covered under parents’ insurance plans, while others have reached the insurance age limit cut-off point and are now uninsured.
“Students need healthcare because they don’t want to lose time away from school – they’re sick and they’re not functioning up to par, but school is not going to wait for them,” Bose said. “Classes keep moving and they’re falling behind.”
Sara Zeigler, chair of the Department of Government, said current proposed healthcare reforms would directly impact college students.
“The proposals include some features that would allow students to remain on their parents’ health insurance until age 26,” Zeigler said. “This could help students who may not finish school by age 22 to remain insured for a longer period.”
Bose said the number of uninsured Americans is “staggering,” with an estimated 45 million people currently without insurance.
“It’s an escalating problem, because if they (the uninsured) don’t get basic healthcare, then their condition gets worse,” Bose said. Zeigler said she thinks many Americans receive little preventative care due to a lack of insurance coverage.
“Essentially, we currently ration health care based on insurance status and income,” Zeigler said. Obama’s healthcare reform bill is trying to address these issues, Bose said.
“They (uninsured people) don’t have to have Cadillac care, as long as they can get Hyundai type of care,” Bose said.
Patty Hart, a sophomore political science major from Berea, said a public option healthcare plan, would address the lack of insurance by forcing insurance companies to change the way they conduct business.
“Healthcare insurers have had a monopoly for so long that a public plan would bring competition and hopefully bring down the prices (of insurance),” Hart said.
Bose said because of the controversy surrounding a national healthcare system, like in Canada, he doubts America will adopt that system. He said one issue with this debate is long waits to receive care, to which he said, there are people waiting for basic healthcare under America’s current system.
“Those people that never see a doctor – they’re waiting and waiting, and they’re getting sicker and sicker and sicker,” Bose said. “Those that don’t have any insurance, have no one to turn to… so they’re waiting – 50 million of them.”
Zeigler acknowledges this political controversy as well.
“People do have a lot of fear, ranging from long waiting periods to. having treatments excluded because of pre-existing conditions,” Zeigler said. “But all of these things happen in the current, privately-based system.”
She also said many people who criticize the reform proposals don’t realize the government is already extensively involved in healthcare through Medicare and Medicaid, both of which are publically funded through the government.
Despite the controversy and debate, students continue to have options regarding healthcare, Bose said. Beyond the free basic care provided by Student Health Services (SHS), he said there are several programs that provide affordable care to students.
Bose said SHS refers students to four sliding-scale clinics that provide care at affordable rates for students. SHS also refers students to the DISH program at Pattie A. Clay Medical Center, which gives students free care for six months.
Bose said that programs like these keep “cropping up,” and this reflects a need among Americans that should be addressed. Something needs to be done, he said.
“(Insurance companies) don’t really care about people who have no jobs or low-income, or those on Medicaid,” Bose said. “As long as they (the uninsured) are not a sizable population that doesn’t affect their pocketbooks, the insurance companies really don’t care about them.