Upon graduation, health care changes

Graduating seniors think a lot about their future – where to live, what type of job to get, whether they want to consider attending graduate school. One aspect of the future graduating seniors do not think about is healthcare.

The need for affordable and or universal healthcare is an important issue in the Democratic presidential primaries, but what many graduating seniors don’t realize is how soon this issue will affect them personally.

Students living in this country, one that does not provide healthcare for all its citizens, are generally no longer eligible to receive healthcare benefits through their parents’ plans once they graduate.

“I think it’s a tremendous burden,” said Katie Robbins, assistant national coordinator of Health Care Now, an organization that advocates for universal health care. “There is a lot of stress in the final days of college when students have a lot of pressure to get a job so that their health insurance does not lapse.”

Health care regulations vary in each state, but several states have passed laws that permit young adults to stay covered under their parents’ health care plans until age 24 or 25. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, otherwise known as COBRA, allows students set to lose their dependent status to extend their coverage under their parent’s plan for up to 36 months. COBRA’s downside is that users must pay the full cost of their health service providers’ premiums.

Many students interviewed said they have not yet started thinking about health care.

“I was not aware that I would lose coverage after I graduate, but now I plan to look into that,” junior Baber Mohammed said. “I’m not even sure my parents know that, but it is definitely something I am concerned with.”

There are currently 47 million Americans without health care, and one third of all people ages 18 to 30 are uninsured. Nonworking college graduates do have several options to secure coverage once they graduate and before they are employed, but experts say many of these options are simply unaffordable.

“The best outcome is a job with an employer that offers health insurance as part of your employee benefits, but if but if not, absolutely buy a policy,” said Sara Rosenbaum, chair of the School of Public Health and Health Science’s department of health policy. “Most states have people in their insurance departments that may be able to counsel you about what to look for when buying an individual policy, which can be filled with limits and exclusions.”

GW’s Alumni Association offers short-term health insurance as well as insurance for catastrophic events and injuries, which costs several hundred dollars per quarter and is good for one year. A 12-month plan with a $5,000 deductible and a 50 percent co-insurance costs about $100 per month for a young adult in D.C.

A Blue Cross Blue Shield plan for a young adult living in D.C. costs about $160 per month with $300 deductible and 10 percent co-insurance.

“I do know that in a few months I am no longer going to be covered under my parents’ health care and will have to either pay for it myself or be working at a company that offers benefits,” said Joe Altenau, a senior. “With graduation and job searches, I haven’t really had a chance to look at the different health care plans that are out there.”

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is focusing not only on the nation’s need for a healthcare solution, but specifically on the healthcare needs of the post-graduate young adult crowd.

Obama’s healthcare solution involves giving an income-related subsidy to families who do not qualify for Medicaid but still need financial assistance, a subsidy these families could use to purchase a personal plan. In addition, the plan would allow young people up to age 25 to continue coverage through their parents’ plans.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) wants to reform the nation’s tax code to make private, rather than employer-provided, health insurance more appealing. McCain also wants to provide individuals with a tax credit as increased incentives to get coverage. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) advocates for a universal health care plan that requires all individuals to get insurance. Clinton’s plan also includes a tax cut to make premiums more affordable.

For now, graduates will need to either dish out the money for health insurance, or find a job that offers it. Senior Brian Gallo said he hopes to land a job that offers healthcare benefits.

“I have not yet looked at acquiring health insurance for myself, but health insurance would be an important benefit in any job that I’m applying for,” senior Bojan Savanovic said. “When I was talking to my parents they pointed out that I would be losing coverage. I’m not exactly sure what the rules are or how plans will change with the upcoming election, but I am definitely looking for a job that offers (health care).”

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