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By Molly Adams
Molly Adams is an uninsured recent college graduate who sent us these thoughts on the health care debate. Originally broadcast on NPR's Morning Edition. For a related lesson plan, check out PBS Teachers.
"So what do you do?” is a question people ask a lot when you're
fresh out of college. I’m a freelancer, doing all kinds of broadcast
production jobs. But that doesn’t cover my rent.
So I’m also a bartender.
None of these jobs come with health insurance.
I was lucky growing up. My parents were always steadily employed, sometimes by the government, so I always had health care. I remember trying to argue my mom out of a wisdom tooth extraction in high school. I said, "I bet it's really expensive! It can’t be worth it."
"Honey. It's $70," she said back. "We have insurance."
Photo by teresia.
A few weeks ago, before I was dropped from my parents’ plan, I had an eye exam and a physical. It was like a last meal. I asked way more questions than I ever did before. I’ve started flossing my teeth every day, something I never did when I knew I could go to dentist if I had a problem.
My dad called me a couple of days before my final checkup. He asked what I was going to do. I told him Illinois provides free reproductive health care for women who make less than $1800 a month. But I didn’t have any other ideas.
Then my mom picked up the line. She told me she studied some COBRA information and that I could get a plan for around three hundred dollars.
Here's the thing: $300 a month is pretty much everything I make that does not go into rent, my school loan payments, transportation, utilities, and food. It’s the only extra money I have. If I pay for health care, I would literally have no other money. I couldn’t save. I couldn’t buy winter boots. I couldn’t buy anything.
I have co-workers at the restaurant where I work who have never been able to put more than two thousand dollars into their checking accounts. And it’s not just the artists. I know many people who are waiting tables or tending bar while they work two unpaid internships to earn a place in a company.
That’s why a lot of us are just not that into health care. It doesn’t make a lot of financial sense.
It’s a priority for my parents because they need it: They’re in their fifties. Colonoscopies, mammograms, all that gross stuff. I have other things to think about. Plus, dwelling on the fact I can’t afford health care is stressful and we know stress leads to health problems so forget it.
For now, I’m lucky. I don't have chronic health issues. My safety net is having financially secure family members who could take care of me.
But I do worry about a Catastrophic Event. I ride my bike
a lot in a city filled with bad drivers. I worry about getting
into an accident. And when I think about not being
covered, and maybe having to spend $20,000 on a
broken leg, I admit I get bitter. Why is it that I'm working
forty hours a week, contributing to society, and yet I
still don't have health insurance? Aren't I earning it?
Image via Sberla.
Maybe someday I will get hired full-time and score a benefits package in spite of the conditions that so many recent graduates are dealing with: a crappy job market and no health care. Until then, I have to decide between every extra purchase and health care. And right now, it really doesn’t feel like a difficult decision.