Shutdown won’t stifle need for affordable care

A Sonoma State sociology professor used the following example for his class: Imagine you have inherited a house, but it’s built on sand and everything keeps falling apart. Would you rather spend your entire life with a hammer in one hand and a screwdriver in the other, fixing a structure that requires constant, round-the-clock attention? Or would you rather build a new house from scratch on a foundation that’s solid in the first place?

As the generation most closely associated with the future, many of us freshly off of or on the brink of our parents’ healthcare plans, we prefer the latter. So most of us were overjoyed when President Barack Obama decided to stop adhering to the age-old tradition of paying an arm and a leg for the right to health, and decided to realistically expand care options to those who can’t afford them. After all, “change” was what brought him into office, right?

As college students, we’ve already felt a lot of that change. Many women have been delightfully surprised that – despite Rush Limbaugh’s attempt to deem unmarried, sex-having women as “prostitutes” – contraception is offered without a co-payment. 

But, as we can tell from the last week or so, Tea Party Republicans are adamantly burying that change in the sand their old, broken house was built on. Never mind that the prior healthcare system discriminates against existing conditions, makes the right to decently affordable care a privilege and not a right, encourages often outrageous co-pays and screws over even the hardest working, freshly laid off employees. Never mind that Obama was reelected partly on his promise to reform healthcare, the Affordable Care Act was signed into law three years ago and the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 48.61 million people were without coverage in 2011 (we would have gotten a more accurate number for 2012, but the Census website was ironically shut down).  Young adults aged 18 – 34 are reportedly the most likely to be uninsured, but minorities, low and middle income families are not far behind.

So apparently, expanding healthcare to the young, non-wealthy, in-need is so bad for America that it required the first federal government shut down in 17 years. 

From gay rights to abortion choices, and now basic health care, Tea Party Republicans have come to the conclusion that they know best for the people that they have absolutely no connection to (for starters, they’re still getting paid). Even fellow Republicans are reprimanding the Tea Partiers for their stubborn, damaging refusal to face reality and compromise.

It’s hard to find a bright side in the furlough of 800,000 employees, some of which include college students paying loans, but one silver lining is that it seems ObamaCare has kept chugging along. Though the Obama administration has not yet released enrollment numbers and will reportedly not do so until November, last week the website was up to 8.6 million hits – hopefully a sign that Americans are interested, encouraged and enrolled.

For those who choose to opt out of the plan, the choice to pay the penalty is yours – but remember, everyone needs to visit a doctor every once in a while, despite the old saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Have you tried eating an apple to fix a broken foot? It’s a fruitless effort.

Despite conservatives’ efforts to use “lack of options” as a rallying cry, the truth is we actually have quite a few. 

Some of us haven’t yet reached our 26th birthdays, and many of us rely on  the on-campus Student Health Center. But when we eventually reach the point where we need to find our own coverage, we will revel in the tiered, cost-based choices offered to us. The Affordable Care Act even allows low-income students to qualify for Medicaid – which could literally be a lifesaver for students already drowning in debt.

The Affordable Care Act will improve the way of life for so many. Why Tea Partiers refuse to relinquish their selfish, poorly placed grip on the security of our future is beyond us. But the good news is, support for ObamaCare continues to grow as support for ransom-seeking, life-destroyers continues to decline.

It’s nice to have our best interests at the forefront of legislation for once. Maybe our economic and social foundation isn’t quite as strong as we’d like it to be, but this new house’s landlords are sure as hell better than the last one’s.