Surprising pundits and politicians, President Obama delivered on his number one campaign pledge, health-care reform. On March 21 and March 25, the U.S. House of Representatives approved landmark health-care legislation in a complex process, one that began last winter and ended this week with the passage of two coordinated bills. Such a complicated and obstructed process has yielded fast results; interestingly, one of the major beneficiaries of the health care bill will be young people.
The health-care debate has been a constant presence in the halls of Congress as early as 1798 when passage of the Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen marked the beginning of federal government's involvement. Since then, the fight for universal health-care has always been hotly contested, and often a priority for both Republican and Democratic leaders. Franklin Roosevelt sought to expand social security to cover health expenses. In the 1940s, Truman faced accusations of being a communist when he tried to propose a national health insurance program. Johnson succeeded in covering the poor and elderly with Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s, and Nixon proposed legislation similar to the bill passed this week in the 1970s.
In six months, reform will require that young adults up to age 26 be covered on their parent's health insurance policies. Starting in September, young people in the job market or in post college internships will be able to explore careers while retaining basic health-care coverage through their families. Before this bill, there was no federal standard for youth health-care coverage.
Another benefit to young people in what Congress did this week was the inclusion of student loan reform in the health-care bill. Taking away the role of the middleman from large commercial banks, the student loan reform legislation will provide direct federal loans to college students at lower rates. Proceeds from the loans will go to expand loan opportunities for low-income students. Democrats had long felt that the old system took advantage of students, so adding loan reform to the new health care bill ensured its passage.
It often takes a long fight and political sense to bring benefits to a country. In this case, we know the wait was worth it.
Masha Lafen. More »