The high cost of being an uninsured student

For many students, health care has become an expensive commodity. In UVU student Jorgen Hanson’s case, the high cost of a dental procedure threatens to put him in extensive debt.
“Basically, the dentist told me that if I didn’t get work done I’d be lucky to have teeth when I’m 40,” Hanson said. “But the procedure will cost around $3,700.”

Since the work is quite necessary, Hanson intends to foot the bill with a credit card. His other options would be to get his root canals done at discount prices through dentists in training or through dentists in Mexico—both of which are somewhat precarious choices. But his dilemma is one that is shared among many on campus: the high-cost of being uninsured.

Though statistics on the number of UVU students without insurance was not available, The Commonwealth Fund (a major philanthropic foundation) estimates that 29 percent of all young adults ages 19-29 are without insurance. That makes this group the largest segment of the uninsured population. Many of these young adults are students who lose coverage after graduating high school or college, or who while in college lose eligibility under their parent’s plan. Unfortunately, many students at UVU find themselves in this situation, and, like Hanson, must pay extravagantly for important medical and health services, or simply go without them entirely.

The result is that we have many students who avoid seeing doctors and dentists when they need to because of the high cost such visits entail. What’s worse is that when one of these uninsured students suffers from an unexpected health issue, they will likely be unable to afford treatment and will accumulate a large chunk of debt on top of any student loan debt they may have.

So what is to be done? UVU could make insurance mandatory, as a handful of other universities have done. The problem with this is that the already high cost of tuition would go up even more. The real answer seems to extend well beyond this university and out to the federal government. We need large-scale health care reform that guarantees some basic coverage for every American if we wish to solve the uninsured college student problem. Unfortunately, the election of a republican senator in Massachusetts makes this goal even more unattainable than it has been these past months in the nation’s capital.

But, as Hanson points out, the preventive medicine and cost reduction that could be among the most beneficial effects of reforming our current system of health care just seems to make sense.

“When H1N1 was the big scare, most people didn’t have a problem with getting a free vaccine, because they didn’t want the health costs of not treating it,” Hanson said. “I don’t see having guaranteed basic health care being different than that.”

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