As seniors prepare to graduate, they have a lot to say good bye to: friends, classmates, professors and…doctors? Come May many graduates will find themselves off of mom and dad’s health insurance plan, and without steady employment with a benefits package, a trip to the doctor or the pharmacy won’t be cheap.
Last year, young adults made up 50 percent of all new uninsured cases, and studies indicate two out of every five college graduates will spend time without insurance during their first year after graduation
[adam] But for Adam Caruso, a mechanical engineering senior, a probable lack of health insurance after graduation isn’t a main concern. “I think I will be dropped from my parents’ insurance when I am 25,” Caruso said. “I just hope I get a job before then.”
Not everyone will be as lucky as Caruso assumes he will be. Many health insurance providers stop covering young adults as soon as they stop attending school full time.
Andrew Burns, a State Farm Insurance agency owner, said when college graduates reach the age of 25, typically they are asked to get their own insurance and are taken off their parents’. “If the kid doesn’t attend college after high school, they are legally not considered a student away from home, and therefore are dropped from their parents’ insurance earlier,” he said.
But lack of coverage isn’t always a result of no longer attending an educational institution. Christopher Inman, English senior, is living without health insurance, a lifestyle he shares with 43.6 million other people in the nation. About a month ago, his mom switched jobs and informed him she would be without health insurance for herself and her five children for three months. If she wanted to maintain insurance until the new policy started, it would have cost more than $1,000.
Many college students are forced to ignore a scratchy throat, an achy limb or a bleeding wound because, like Inman, they are uninsured. “My brother tore some ligaments in his ankle last month, and my mom had to pay out of her pocket for the medical attention he needed,” Inman said. “Now I have a toothache, and with rent due soon, there is no way I can afford to pay for a dentist visit on my own.”
Clara Fletcher, an environmental microbiology junior, hasn’t had health insurance at all during her time at MSU. “Because my dad owns his own business, acquiring insurance for me is super expensive,” Fletcher said. “I should be on long-term allergy medication, but I can’t afford to pay for it. The meds cost almost $8 a pill, which would ultimately reach up to $300 a month. I pay for my asthma inhaler out of my pocket now, and it is already a pricey payment. I just hope not to get sick.”
Young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 remain the least likely of any age group to have health insurance. According to the most recent data available from the U.S. Census Bureau, 8.1 million young adults in this age group went without health insurance in 2002.
[college] “College kids have other things on their minds,” Fletcher said. “We obviously aren’t concerned about our health when we eat 99-cent hot dogs and then go to the bar and drink alcohol all night.”
There is help for those without health insurance thanks to MSU’s Student Health Subsidy Program, which provides health care support for qualifying low-income students and their spouses. SHSP offers unlimited office visits and university-recommended immunizations at Olin Health Center, as well as prescription drug coverage up to an annual maximum of $1,400.
Also, non-profit organizations such as Planned Parenthood provide young adults a variety of services, charging a fee according to the individual’s income.
“If you receive no income whatsoever, you will be on a donation basis,” Christina Bolden, community specialist for Planned Parenthood, said. “However, if you have a part-time job and make something like $100 a week, $6,000 a year, then we will take that into account and charge you a fee. It is never too expensive, though, especially for students.”
Some of the services Planned Parenthood offers are free pregnancy tests, condoms and STD testing.
Another place a student can go is Willow Plaza Services, part of the Ingham County Health Department Adolescent Programs, where more well-rounded service is provided.
“We offer medical and mental health services for children up to the age of 21,” said Lisa Embry, lead counselor at Willow Plaza Services, located in downtown Lansing. “We base our fee according to the income of a child, so realistically it is nothing.”
The clinic has a variety of health care available, including immunizations, physicals, prenatal care, birth control and the treatment of general health problems, as well as free HIV testing and pregnancy testing.
Living without health insurance is not a pleasant situation to be in and for those who deal with it everyday, it can be eye-opening yet frustrating.
[always] “I always associated a lack of health insurance with poverty,” Inman said. “I just have to remember that I can’t go to the doctor for a couple of months.”
Both Inman and Fletcher agree, health insurance in the United States should be a bigger priority.
“I own a pair of $100 Mavi jeans, yet I can’t afford allergy meds that I need,” Fletcher said.
Inman said he thinks health insurance should be provided by the education or by the state. “If we supposedly live in such a wealthy country, insurance should be easily provided for us,” he said. “It would seem to me that our major focuses as a country should be issues of health care as opposed to international business.”
For both students, they’ve proven that living without health insurance doesn’t have to be as stressful as it would seem. Although saying goodbye to health insurance may not be easy at first, graduates will hopefully be reunited with their doctors shortly- in good health. And students without any insurance are just hoping to stay healthy.

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