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Should Health Insurance be Mandatory? You're Only 20 or 30, Why?

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Message Lani Massey Brown
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Josh is twenty-seven years old. Already his life is in shambles and he can't imagine his way out of debt. All because of one four hour bleep of a sunny afternoon when he should have been duking it out in the beach volleyball tournament. Instead killer cramps, a cold sweat and a few caring friends sent them all flying into the closest hospital emergency room. Four hours and a parade of medical tests later, and Josh was on his way home with a bottle of Alka Seltzer. The good news, his appendix hadn't ruptured. The bad news came later. Josh was nearly twenty thousand dollars in debt

That was three years ago. Josh was twenty-four years old. Was his choice to rush to the emergency room a bad one? Absolutely not.

But his choice to forego health insurance in favor of a new iPod or xbox game or whatever . . . well that choice continues to darken his world and drags his whole family down with him. For now and any time in the foreseeable future, Josh's American Dream is shattered.

For Josh and many other twenty-somethings, his glorious coming of age meant he was not only too old to tagalong on his parent's insurance policy, but he was over and done with school insurance as well. And like any reasonable twenty or even thirty-something, what's more important, a new stereo system for your car or handing some faceless stranger a huge wad of cash for piece of paper you're never going to need? . . . Or so you think.

Perhaps as parents we cajole and plead with our newly independent and somewhat cocky kids to take health insurance seriously. “ Because sometime in the distant future, something bad might happen and then the unknown medical expenses for treatments you may need will be somewhat covered and you won't have to ask us for money when you're sprawled out on a hospital cot with blood pouring out of your arm or leg or chest.” But the excuses pile on. “I'm looking for a new job, dad. One where I'll get insurance, dad. My interview's next week, dad.” And, “I'll look into it, mom. First chance I get. I promise”

With Josh's first car, it was easy. You want a car? You buy insurance. Done. But with health insurance, where your child's life may hang in the balance of whether or not YOU can pay for medical treatment if he needs it, there is nothing. No backup. No recourse but to watch and wait for the other shoe to fall.

But for Josh, his wants are more immediate and much more material. Want a new old car, Josh? “Sorry, Josh, it's too risky for us. Your credit rating is aahh . . .” Want a credit card, Josh? “You're joking, right?” Wanna buy a house, Josh? “Not with that debt hanging over your head and this string of unpaid bills. Wait, how about taking a look at this ARM. It might work.”

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Author of A MARGIN OF ERROR: BALLOTS OF STRAW, featured in "Small Press Bookwatch" - Politics is a tough career, with more knives in (more...)

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