Young people make up a disproportionate percentage of those without health insurance: 15% of the population, but 30% of the uninsured. The common suggestion that our generation is not invested in health insurance reform is a fallacy, mitigated by the fact that young adults are more civically engaged than ever before in community service, in seeking public office, and at the polls. Health care is one of our top priorities. The time for reform is now - and we want our voices to be heard.
The Roosevelt Institute Campus Network Health Care Center has carefully researched the three health care reform bills that have passed in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Through the lens of the most important priorities for young Americans, the center has identified whether or not each bill meets the criteria necessary to actually make a difference in their lives. This document serves as a resource for organizations seeking to educate young people on health care and for those fighting towards meaningful reform.
It is abundantly clear that the bills currently under consideration are not equal in their ability to make an impact. While it may be too early to make a policy recommendation, it is important to understand where the three bills collectively succeed and where there is collective or individual failure in addressing these priorities.
All three bills address some of these necessary components of reform, which are largely agreed upon among organizations that represent young people. For example, each bill includes a provision that automatically enrolls those who qualify into Medicaid and SCHIP. Initially proposed by former Roosevelt student member Robert Nelb, who is now a Presidential Management Fellow at the US Department of Health and Human Services, this component will provide considerable savings by reducing bureaucracy and ensuring coverage to society's most financially disadvantaged individuals.
Both Senate bills and the House also incorporate some form of public option, although they differ in robustness. The recently passed Senate Finance Committee bill offers what appears to be the least comprehensive option, as it focuses on the creation of health care cooperatives without providing a government-administered alternative. Each of the bills also addresses the need for preventative medicine options for young Americans, although the Senate Finance Committee's decision to offer an unaffordable $3,000 deductible to young people makes it a woefully inadequate option.
Similarly, other priorities are largely ignored by at least one of the bills. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee's bill allows young people to stay on their parent's insurance until the age of 26, while neither the Senate Finance Committee nor the House Tri-Committee bill speak to this need. Fortunately though, as a testament to what can be accomplished when young people organize and make their collective voices heard, the House now appears likely to incorporate this provision into any final bill.
The reform legislation from the Senate HELP Committee and the House of Representatives both address the need to explicitly prohibit the discriminatory increases of premiums based solely on gender. However, the mechanism to fight against this discrimination is far more effective in the Senate HELP Committee bill. The Senate Finance Committee does not deal with this concern at all.
The analysis done by the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network also focuses on if, and to what degree, each bill provides health education to young people and includes sufficient subsidies to lower-income individuals and families.
The final health care bill will look different from each of the current options. However, we at the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network believe in the need to recognize which bills have the most innovative components to address the issues of young people and ensure that they are incorporated into any final bill.
Awais Khaleel is the Policy Director for the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network.