Cost of health care a concern for millennials

How can millennials connect with politics through health care?


    NEW HAVEN– From Occupy movements to viral internet memes, millennials have increasingly shown their positions toward social issues in America in the fight for equal rights. Cost and accessibility to health care is a concern for some students at Southern but because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) anyone is eligible for health insurance.

    “When I first heard about it I didn’t think it worked because I kept hearing everyone complaining about how they’re paying for someone else’s health insurance,” said Tyler Japs, junior secondary education major. “But now that it’s been going on for a few years I think it’s definitely helping people.”

    Access Health CT is Connecticut’s official health insurance exchange of the ACA.Tthose who need health insurance, and do not qualify for Medicare or Medicaid, can search through the exchange’s website and apply for insurance.

     Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman is the chairwoman of the Board of Access Health CT and she said the population of the state started from an eight percent uninsured rate, in 2012, to three percent uninsured rate in the beginning of 2016.

     “It really has done a great job,” said Wyman. “We’re talking now about over 116,000 people that have healthcare insurance under the private plan and 600,000 in Medicaid. Among the 116,000 people enrolled, more than 30 percent are under the age of 35.”

     Efrain Torres, sophomore physics major, said he and his parents was very happy when the exchanges opened. During the recession of 2008 Torres said his father’s employer had to cut employee benefits, leaving the family without insurance.

     “They didn’t see a doctor for a couple of years,” said Torres. “My parents aren’t in the best of shape. They both have arthritis and my mother has diabetes, but now they can see a doctor my dad doesn’t have to worry about not being able to go to work.”

     A report from the United Health Foundation concluded Connecticut is the 6th healthiest state based on health and socioeconomic factors: average lifespan, population of cigarette smokers, ease of access to primary care physicians, ease of access to grocery stores, and income inequality.

    Stanley Bernard, public health professor, has worked in the fields of health and social policies since 1990 and he said every semester he poses a question to his class–is health care a right in this country?

   “Every year I have to let them know that it’s not a right because if you don’t have money or insurance you’re not going to get health care,” said Bernard.

     Insurance costs for an individual depend on age, county of residence, and annual income. Through Connecticut’s health exchanges a 24-year-old part-time worker, making minimum wage, living in New Haven County would see estimated annual insurance premiums ranging from $1,760 to $4,496 without government subsidies.

   When presented with the list of insurance plans students were baffled at how insurance was structured, the various insurance terms and the annual costs.

    “I’d be so confused if I did this by myself. I definitely would have to ask my parents to help me,” said Dixie Wiafe, graduate student of women’s studies. “In reality I can’t really afford what’s on this list.”

  Wiafe is 25-years-old and a student worker on campus. She said if she had a part-time job and had to start paying her student loans being able to afford health insurance would be impossible.

  Torres and Japs agree but said despite the confusion and intimidating prices the exposure to the information has made them more self-conscious about health care policies in the future.

    “Not a lot of young people want to take the time and learn about this sort of stuff,” said Torres. “They need to start paying attention to this now because it’s going to affect their future.”

    Health insurance is now available to those who have pre-existing conditions because of the ACA and it is also slowly changing how people are treated Bernard said.

   “I think the ACA is pushing towards a more prevention style of healthcare,” said Bernard. “I think it can do a lot more but up until the ACA came out and started to push more public health ideas we were stuck in allopathic limbo.”

    Allopathic meaning a sick patient visits a doctor, the doctor runs tests, gives the patient the suggested medicine and if the patient doesn’t feel better the cycle starts over again. Through insurance reform Bernard said the ACA is moving toward preventive-focused treatments, such as providing discounts for gym memberships.

    “In the next 20 or 30 years I can see that as the prescribed treatment,” Bernard said. The cost of healthcare keeps going up and if they don’t focus on prevention then the system is going to crash.”

    Our next president might improve ACA or strip away some of its beneficial components. Some presidential candidates want to repeal the ACA and replace it with a new system.

    “Students should take health care into account when they’re voting,” said Japs. “I think students nowadays don’t understand how this works but if students get sick and don’t have health insurance then it’s going to be a bigger financial burden on them.”

    Bernard has confidence in young voters and he said health care affordability and treatment will improve as millennials keep pushing for health care equality.

 “Students want to get involved with [health care equality] and they should fight for it if they truly believe people deserve to be helped,” said Bernard.

  Japs said he is currently not registered to vote and Wiafe said she didn’t plan on voting because she isn’t confident in her knowledge in politics. But after learning some aspects of how health insurance works they both said it’s an important factor to consider when voting for the next president.

  “I do plan on voting but I don’t know what Sanders’ position is on health care,” said Torres. “It’s his equality ideology that I connect to the most.”

  Torres said he now plans on looking into Sanders’ stance on health care.