Why students should care about healthcare

Srishti Mirchandani | Op-ed Submission

16.2, 42, 46…The numbers are everywhere and the debate is now ubiquitous. The debate on the U.S. health care system, that is. Ever since President Obama ranked health care reform as a top priority, the contentious dialogue flooded in from left, right and center with a pessimistic outlook for agreement or compromise.

The U.S. health care system is incredibly complex, and the political process causes real reform to be that much more complex. As students with our own more immediate crises at hand, why should we care? We should care because of the stories behind these numbers: Health care comprises 16.2 percent of the United States’ gross domestic product, yet our average life expectancy ranks only 42nd in the world, while 46 million people remain entirely uninsured in our country.

Together, these numbers imply tremendous health care expenses with insufficient health rewards. And yet the numbers only provide the stories’ background. Money and insurance are critical factors, but our lifestyle, education, culture and other systemic factors also play leading roles in our health.

Successful health system reform must account for all of this information. As the next beneficiaries of the country’s health care system, we must understand these variables and use the understanding to embolden reform. If you still need convincing, please refer to the Oct. 12 staff editorial (“As students, we should care about health care”) providing additional address to this issue.

As a forum not only for increasing health care understanding, but also for asking your questions and stating your opinions, the Roosevelt Institution presents the Wash. U. Health Care Town Hall on Oct. 27. Against the incessant rhetoric of how health care reform could fail, expert panelists will provide their perspectives on health policy and examples of successful practices from economic, medical and political angles.

Whether we like it or not, as we are college-age students, the outcome of this current health care policy debate is going to determine a great part of the rest of our lives and our future family’s lives more than any other age cohort. The issues that have been discussed in this article are not simply just part of another drawn-out, overly politicized and meaningless debacle in Washington. Instead, they are real challenges that affect millions of people everyday and whose solutions, whether meaningful or not, have the power to perpetuate or alleviate class divisions and exacerbate or provide answers to the disturbing deterioration of health in our nation.

The issue of health care in our society is urgent, but it is also deeply affects our and our society’s long-term future. It is not up to our parents or our grandparents to fix. We are the ones that will be here for that future, and thus action, from us, must be reactive, loud, critical and, most importantly, heard.

Be heard at 8 p.m. on Tuesday at the Roosevelt Institution’s Health Care Town Hall in McMillan Café.

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