U.S. senators are about to do what many Blair students do several days a week - work late into the night to finish a task that is long overdue. The senators started the debate at about 8 p.m. the Saturday before Thanksgiving in hopes of voting on health care reform sometime before Christmas. But passing national health care reform legislation is not something that is a day, a week or even a month overdue. It has been lying hidden in a corner of the Congressional plan book for more than 60 years.
Over the years, Congress has managed to pass health reform in small doses. World War II soldiers received health care coverage, and the elderly and poor have come to benefit from Medicare or Medicaid passed in the 1960s. Coverage was extended to many children in 1997 under the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) in 1997. But overall, Congress deserves a big "I" for incomplete when it comes to national health care reform.
Congress's health care assignment is a big one, as the national legislation will affect 17 percent of the total U.S. economy. Some of those provisions will directly touch many Blair students.
One health care reform issue affecting almost all Blazers is the insurance coverage of young people, many of whom are taken off their parents' policy when they graduate from college. With unemployment in the double digits, and fewer jobs offering health benefits anymore, the provision to extend coverage to age 26 would free young adults from limiting their job search to health-care providing employers.
Another important decision that will be made is determining how undocumented residents in the United States will be covered. Emergency rooms never turn people away, but without insurance, people have to use the emergency room (ER) instead of a doctor's office or clinic. Health care reform could provide insurance coverage for all, and allow everyone to see the doctor or clinic best suited to treat them. Unfortunately, xenophobic politics in both the House and Senate are likely to leave millions without insurance because of their status as "illegal aliens." Not every student at Blair is a legal documented resident of the United States, and even more Blazer parents lack legal status. Denying coverage to undocumented residents, even those who wish to pay for their own insurance may be appealing to the political passions of some districts, but for us at Blair, it will mean more long lines at the Holy Cross ER, or worse, fellow students coming to school untreated and sick.
Both House and Senate bills come close to banning insurance coverage for abortions. This provision could kill the bills altogether, or if passed, make it illegal for health insurance companies to provide coverage for a controversial but legal medical procedure.
We all know that pulling all-nighters does not always result in the best paper, or the best test performance the next day. Let's hope Congress spends this week and next with enough coffee to ensure that an appropriate bill is passed that will provide for coverage for all people in the U.S. Because let's face it - whether you are young or old, documented or not, if sick, you need health care.
Masha Lafen. More »