18 February 2009

Taking Care

This New York Times article on do-it-yourself health care for uninsured young adults hits home as I watch my friends try to find post-graduate jobs that offer them medical benefits or enough money to buy their own health care. In short, the article describes how many twenty-somethings, just starting careers and often freelancing or working for minimum wage, cannot afford (expensive!) medical plans and end up treating themselves: using antibiotics borrowed from friends, finding diagnoses and treatments on the internet, or stockpiling supplies like inhalers and insulin pumps before their insurance policies expire. The behavior is dangerous because without proper preventative care (especially in the case of life-long conditions like asthma or diabetes), and because of misdiagnoses that let the problems grow worse, these people could suffer major illnesses and wind up in hospitals having to pay back even larger debts that they can't afford.

The concern resonates with me. Happily, I can expect my PhD program next year to pay for health care or at least provide me with a living wage and access to cheapo university health care. Unfortunately, a lot of my friends are doing without such support. I've watched one friend commit herself to a poorly-paying, soul-sucking job for much longer than she intended because she needs to be there a certain amount of time to be eligible for health benefits. Others are just forfeiting health care plans and counting on not getting sick.

I believe that health care is mostly wasted on the young: we end up paying for the illnesses of typically older, typically sicker individuals that have the same deductible as us. That said, people should be able to arrange a safety net for themselves if they so desire, and keeping health care out of people's reach because of finances is a major issue that I hope gets resolved. I know I'm not offering solutions, and I believe the situation is immensely complicated. I'm happy to see the New York Times reporting on it; maybe the new administration will focus additional attention to such issues.

No comments:

Post a Comment