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Youth and Healthcare: Why We Need to Care

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Youth and Healthcare: Why We Need to Care

Camille Hansen

Camille Hansen

Camille Hansen

Hannah Woodworth

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When young people are engaged in politics, they typically focus on social issues while older people tend to focus on fiscal issues, such as taxes, national debt and healthcare. However, it is very important that young people, young voters in particular, know about these issues and the policies related to them, especially those regarding healthcare, because they have a bigger impact on us than we think.

The healthcare debate goes back about ten years ago, when Democrat Barack Obama was running for presidency against Republican John McCain. During his campaign, Obama widely discussed his plan to expand healthcare coverage to young people, as the uninsured rate among nonelderly people was nearly 18 percent (Kff.org). After being elected and sworn in, Obama’s healthcare plan, known as the Affordable Care Act or ObamaCare, began the formal legislative process to go into effect. With a safe Democratic majority in the House and a filibuster-proof majority of 60 in the Senate, Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into action in 2010 (Forbes.com).

During his eight years in office, the uninsured rate among the nonelderly population went from a record high of 18 percent to a record low of 10 percent in 2016. Furthermore, the Affordable Care Act slowed the rise of healthcare costs, established coverage for pre-existing conditions and, most significantly for young people, allowed children to stay on their parents plan until age 26. Coverage among people between the ages of 19-25 increased by 5.5 million people from 2010 to September 2015, and it’s likely that 2.3 million of those people gained access because they could be added to a parent’s plan.

Yet, Republican lawmakers cumulatively pushed over 60 unsuccessful congressional votes in the past ten years to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. The fundamentals behind the Affordable Care Act – that wealthier Americans who can afford to buy insurance straight from providers are charged higher premiums to help subsidize those with government supported insurance – go against the basic economic principles of small government, an ideology to which the Republican Party tends to align itself (Economist.com).

In 2016, when Republican Donald Trump was elected, he planned to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. On his first day in office, he passed an executive order that instructed agencies to  grant exemptions from, waive, or delay implementing any portion of the ACA that could cause government financial responsibility, and the Department of Health and Human Services began making it more difficult to find information about how to enroll for coverage. Since then, despite multiple attempts by President Trump and Congress to disassemble parts of the program, most key aspects remain intact.

So, why should we care about all of this? Well, as young people, the Affordable Care Act allows us to stay on our parent’s healthcare plans until we are 26 and expands overall coverage to people of all ages, but at a large public expense. If these benefits of the ACA are repealed, not only would our generation w be one of the first to be directly impacted, but millions of people would lose their healthcare coverage.

Because Democrats flipped the house in the 2018 midterms in November, it is unlikely that President Trump will effectively pass legislation through Congress to continue dismantling the ACA. The next two years in DC are likely to be a stalemate not only in terms of passing healthcare legislation, but in passing any legislation because of the Republican leadership in the White House, Democratic majority in the House, and Republican majority in the Senate.

If you feel strongly one way or the other about the Affordable Care Act, then one of the best ways to make a change is to advocate for a congressional candidate that represents you and your beliefs. The 2020 elections are going to play a pivotal role in the future of American politics and are the soonest chance to have a real impact.

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Youth and Healthcare: Why We Need to Care