November 11, 2011

Healthcare and College Students

Guest post written by Cyndi Laurenti

Imagine being sick for weeks at a time, or falling and injuring your knee so badly you can hardly walk even after days of rest. Now imagine not being able to get checked out by a doctor because you don't have health insurance and simply can't afford it otherwise. Unfortunately, this is an all too common problem for many people in America, and young people pursuing higher education have been hit the hardest.

After graduating high school, many students choose to go on to college in order to increase their odds of a better future. This is both beneficial to students and to the country, as these young adults will be the future workers and leaders of America. College isn't cheap, however, and most students have little choice but to take out loans or work multiple jobs just to afford their books.

Attending college full time while also working is nearly impossible in itself. Many students choose to work part time or to switch jobs during the summer when they can return home for awhile. Because of this sort of work situation, there's very limited room for the professional advancement that might include benefits such as health insurance for working college students.

Without health insurance from jobs or parents, students can only pay for it themselves. For most, this is simply unfeasible. These young adults are adjusting to living on their own, paying bills, car insurance, book costs, and more, usually while only working for minimum wage.

For working students, it can easily come down to a decision between paying the electricity bill, paying for food, or getting health insurance. While healthcare may be important, the cost of insurance easily gets pushed aside by more pressing priorities. Needless to say, paying healthcare costs out of pocket is also likely to be out of the question, so students are likely to simply go without regular, non-emergency healthcare.

Unfortunately, not everyone is blessed with good health. Of course, with the cost of medical care in this country so expensive, many ignore warning symptoms until emergency care is required. For example, let's say a college student becomes sick one day with a worse-than-usual cold. He doesn't have money to spare for a doctor visit, so decides not to go for a checkup but instead to tough it out. Weeks go by and the initially harmless illness develops into pneumonia. One night, when the student is unable to breathe, an ambulance is called and he is rushed to the hospital. The medical bills are suddenly through the roof. The college student, already up to his neck in debt, simply has no way to pay for it.

These situations are all too common across the country. As of 2008, 1.7 million college-age students were uninsured. Because of this, many people are beginning to worry about the long-term effects of this demographic going without healthcare.

Currently, Americans have an average life expectancy of 78 years. This is mostly due to the superb medical care within the country. Around 100 years ago, before doctors treated patients on a regular basis, the life expectancy was only 47. With young people unable to pay for routine medical care, many worry preventable illness will wear down the body, causing the life expectancy of this generation to be the first to decrease in the last century.

It's simply impractical to expect college students to pay even more than the astronomically rising cost of education, which will saddle many with debt for most of their lives. These young adults are American's future. Unless something is changed to make healthcare more easily available to students, they'll unnecessarily face declining health over the coming decades. The high cost of healthcare combined with heavy student debt doesn't bode well for the nation's health as the new generation comes of age.


While she figures out her next career move, Cyndi Laurenti works as an online writer and editor. Her primary interests are education, technology, and how to combine them. She enjoys the trees and beaches of the Pacific Northwest, and looking things up on other people's iPhones.