As students, we should care about health care

This week, the College Democrats hung up posters containing several key facts about healthcare. This propaganda declared four truths about the state of health insurance in America:

  1. Premiums are rising three times faster than wages. At this rate, in 2016 the average family will be paying $24,000 per year.
  2. 62% of all personal bankruptcies in the U.S. in 2007 were caused by health problems and 71% of those filing had insurance.
  3. Japan has the number-one life expectancy in the world, while the U.S. ranks 42nd. They pay $2,581 per person per year; we pay $7,290.
  4. Currently, insurance companies can discriminate against those with preexisting health conditions, the elderly and women.

These facts are shocking, and regardless of our political beliefs, they are, potentially, a strong instrument to compel us to take health-care reform seriously. We attend a privileged institution, where a fee covers all of our health insurance. Moreover, our University has—as we have previously discussed—been ranked at the bottom of the top 25 universities for socioeconomic diversity. Given these facts, it is tempting to watch the health-care debate in Washington as though it is a circus, to let it go on without establishing beliefs about the way health care should be reformed in America.

But we also neglect, when we think about health care in this way, our role—and responsibility—as students who attend an elite institution, students trained to think critically and articulate well. The health-care debate is relevant to us now because it is at the crux of contemporary political discussion. Moreover, there will come a time when we are not covered by Wash. U. or by our parents’ plans. It will matter to us what kind of health care we get.

But caring about health care is about more than just ourselves. What really ought to compel us to think about what’s best for America is the scene that takes place in any hospital emergency room, where only half of the people waiting have legitimate emergencies, and the other half simply have nowhere else to go for medical care.

At the root of the health-care debate is the potential to diminish human suffering—a reason we invoke when we talk about policy solutions for genocide or AIDS or world hunger. Health care is closer to home, and we have the potential to effect legislation if we are passionate. As students, we can call our congressmen and senators, write letters and attend rallies, participating in the public discourse that accompanies political debate.

Regardless of what we believe, health care has the potential to strongly affect our future and the future of our country. As students, we owe it to ourselves to engage in the national dialogue.

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