Remember what it feels like to gorge yourself on a meal with friends only to find when the bill arrives, your tablemates have conveniently slipped off into the washroom? Well hopefully not, (if so, visit myfriendsareusingme.com) but young Americans should prepare themselves to feel such pain.
Despite all the excitement over the prospects of impending health care reform, the young still have reason for worry. While lawmakers from the Right and Left vigorously seek to caulk the wagon and float across the ideological divide on health care, little is being said about the sustainability of reform and its long-term implications for the future.
The truth is that younger generations are already getting a bum deal. The health care crisis disproportionately affects young people in this country, as young Americans account for the largest chunk of the uninsured with nearly 30 percent of 18-24-year-olds and almost 27 percent of 24-35-year-olds having no health insurance.
For many young Americans, they would find in an auto accident that their cars are better protected than they are. The fact that health care is least accessible to this demographic is a tremendous health and financial risk, but yet is only part of the dilemma health care poses for their future.The rising cost of health care in this country has had a tremendous impact upon Medicare and Medicaid and in turn, our future. As of 2008, this country already faces $34.1 trillion (with a "t") in unfunded financial obligations for the Medicare program alone, amounting to a liability of nearly a half a million dollars for the average family of four. Policymakers and lawmakers alike have largely ignored the severity of such a financial burden on future generations, but worse yet, have further disregarded this tough reality in the current debates over health care reform. Instead in the name of political victory, Washington seems poised to simply plug the dike by pouring more money into a broken system, all while leaving the future to pick up the tab.Such a solution is not only irresponsible, but unethical. Obscuring the severe shortcomings of today's health care system at the expense of tomorrow simply delays the difficult, albeit necessary task of profound and comprehensive health care reform.
While making health care more affordable for individuals is essential, it must also be the aim of our leaders to make the system as a whole more affordable, efficient and thus sustainable. In the upcoming drive for health care reform, lawmakers must be compelled to resist the temptation of the quick fix. They must understand that by ignoring health care's rising cost as the principal systemic issue, they are mortgaging the benefits and assets of young Americans. Failure to do so, will in time place the social contract between generations embodied by the Medicare program at risk and threaten to divide this country not by our politics – but by the opportunities we are afforded.
Landon Gibbs and Brent Parton, Co-Founders' SHOUTAmerica, a non-profit organization based in Nashville, Tennessee committed to cultivating sustainable solutions and policies that address today's health care issues with a conscience for tomorrow