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Monday, June 24, 2024

Politicians discuss health care for young people

Upon graduating from Colorado State University in 2004, Abby Berendt landed her dream job at a large media corporation in New York City. Berendt had been working full time at the company for 10 months when she arrived at work one day with what she thought was a horrible stomachache.

Because her company only offered insurance to those employed for a year, Berendt Googled hospitals that accepted people without health insurance.

After 12 hours of being connected to an I. V., Berendt was told she needed emergency surgery to take out an ovarian tumor the size of a golf ball. Although she was treated and healed, she was left with more than $12,000 in bills.

In a Wednesday conference call, Congressman Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said he is working to give those in situations like Berendt's a break.

"We need to preserve what's best and fix what's broken," Van Hollen said. "[Health care] is very broken for young people because they have huge problems getting access to quality affordable health care."

Van Hollen said those starting careers are predicted to change jobs four or five times during their lives, losing their health insurance each time.

"We want young people to be entrepreneurs," he said. "We don't want them to feel trapped in a job because it's the only place they get quality health care."

Proposed legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives will make health care cheaper by adding affordability credits and allowing young people to stay on their parents' plans until the age of 26.

"Right now a lot of young people are being forced off of their parents' policies between the ages of 19 and 22," he said.

Thomas Bates, Vice President of Civic Engagement for Rock the Vote, said in the call that he thinks current employer-based insurance plans aren't working for those just beginning their careers.

"Half of the young people who do not have insurance actually work full time," Bates said. "They are just not in jobs where their employers are providing health coverage."

Because young people have the highest rate of unemployment, Bates said students who are not getting jobs when they graduate are worsening an already fragile situation.

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"Half of the people who are under the age of 26 are already in some kind of medical debt," he said. "If you add that to the higher cost of education and this unemployment issue, you really are talking about a systemic failure that needs to be addressed."

To pay her hospital bills, Abby Berendt's parents had to refinance their house.

The self-proclaimed healthy, salad-eating, three-miles-a-day runner had two more months until her coverage began, but she said she couldn't wait.

"The saddest thing to me about this whole story is that the situation isn't uncommon," she said. "Everyone should have the right to get health care when they need it and not go bankrupt for it."

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