[Marxism] Young, broke and uninsured
lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Jul 14 10:12:22 MDT 2004
Village Voice, July 13th, 2004
Generation Debt: The New Economics of Being Young
by Solana Pyne
If they're not outright poor as a class, young adults in this country
are at least very, very broke. The average collegian graduates with more
than $20,000 in debt, headed for a job market where real hourly wages
have kept pace with neither inflation nor the cost of living. Young
adults are broke in part because of their unprecedented schooling—in the
latest census figures, 28 percent of those between 25 and 29 reported
holding a bachelor's degree—which promised to pluck them away from the
constellation of problems plaguing America's underclass, whether it was
trouble with housing or inadequate medical care.
Yet there they are, these latest inheritors of the American dream, lined
up in emergency rooms for toothaches and the flu, not because they're
having emergencies, but because they don't have health insurance, and
emergency rooms, unlike private doctors, are obliged to give them care.
Since 1987, the number of uninsured young adults has grown at twice the
rate of older adults, even though the demographic itself is shrinking.
One-quarter to one-third of adults under 35 went without insurance for
all of 2002, the most recent year for which statistics are available—an
increase of 1.2 million from the year before. Half were uninsured for
some part of 2002. Of the 43.6 million uninsured adults in the U.S., 41
percent are young.
Of all the rationales John Kerry and George Bush will give this year as
they stump for their individual visions of helping the nation's
uninsured, one of the most pragmatic is that those little plastic cards
can make the difference, for a crucial group of consumers, between
having a financial parachute and cratering into debt.
Maria Davidson, of Meriden, Connecticut, was 26 and working for low pay
with no benefits when her seven-year-old son tried to kill himself. The
ambulance took him to Yale-New Haven Hospital. She had no private
coverage for herself and her family. Her children were not eligible for
public plans, and she wasn't aware of programs that could have covered
the hospital expenses. Her son amassed $3,900 in bills that Davidson
just couldn't pay. That was nine years ago. By the time the bill was
resolved as the result of a lawsuit, she owed, with interest, over
$6,000. Collection agencies were garnishing her wages and had put a lien
on her condo.
Much of her story is sadly typical. A survey published in May by the
Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit based in New York City, found that of the
uninsured between 19 and 29, half had trouble making payments, had been
contacted by a collection agency, or had modified their lifestyles to
pay off medical bills.
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