Obama’s Health Care Plan For College Students


Published: October 8, 2009

In a speech at the University of Maryland on Sept. 17, President Barack Obama asked his young audience to join him in facing the “defining struggle of this generation.” But how important is this issue to young adults, and how does Obama’s plan aim to help?

Over 13 million young adults between the ages of 19 and 29 are without health insurance, according to The Commonwealth Fund, a private organization providing independent health care research. At 30 percent of the total uninsured, this segment of the population constitutes the largest proportion of uninsured individuals. With the ongoing threat of H1N1, how has the health care reform debate taken these statistics into consideration?

Currently, young adults often lose their health insurance at age 19, when many young adults can no longer remain on their parents’ health insurance plans unless they are a full-time student. Even if students go on to college, this predicament is only delayed until graduation, when they must face the task of finding some way to insure themselves.

Students who graduate in a recession are even more vulnerable to the inability to get insurance. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 15 percent of 20-24 year-olds were unemployed in June. Even those young adults who are fortunate enough to be employed are often left uninsured. The March 2008 Population Survey found that 28 percent of young adults who are employed are uninsured, while 16 percent of working older adults are insured.

Affordable health coverage can be especially difficult to obtain for young women, who are often charged higher premiums than males during their reproductive years.

HealthReform.gov, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Web site meant to promote the president’s plan, attributes this disparity to several factors. These include the fact that many young adults work only part-time, and therefore are less likely to be offered coverage and that many young adults work in small businesses, which are less likely to offer coverage to employees.

The Web site also points out that young adults are more likely than older Americans to change jobs frequently, increasing their probability of having their coverage dropped. Other common facts about the lives of young adults makes them more likely to be uninsured, including that they are less likely to be married, and therefore cannot obtain insurance through their spouses’ employers.

Obama has offered some specific stipulations in his health care reform plan to counter these adverse effects and circumstances surrounding young adults. One of the major changes would be to allow all young adults to remain on their parents’ health insurance policies as dependents until the age of 26.

For those who do not remain as dependents, HeathReform.gov states that the plan will create a “health insurance exchange that will offer a choice of plans to those without job-based coverage so young adults can decide how much coverage they want,” but does not explain exactly how this would be accomplished. Another briefly mentioned benefit of the plan would be “free prevention to all insured people,” purportedly aiming for a health care system, which focuses on preventing illness instead of treating already sick people.

Another important aspect of Obama’s plan is to supply a tax credit to small businesses to provide premium relief, enabling them to provide coverage for their employees. By providing premium subsidies and capping what insurance companies can force young adults to pay in out-of-pocket expenses, co-pays and deductibles, Obama’s plan aims to ensure that all young adults have access to affordable health coverage.