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A Student's Perspective on Obamacare

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

Editor's Note: This article was authored by Carolina Lulli, of the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute

As a junior in high school, the word “college” is ever present in my mind—and on the lips of my parents. The phrases “grades count,” “you need money; get a job,” and “student loans” have become like background music to my life. From the age of twelve, I have been tucking away my babysitting earnings in the bank in the eager hopes that it would someday become enough to pay for college. I still have a long way to go before I can support myself, and President Obama seems intent on pushing that date even further into the distance with his policies that are placing a great financial burden on my generation.

Many young people celebrated with the president when he signed “Obamacare” into law in 2010, unaware of the hovering short- and long-term consequences for college students. Obamacare forces college students to buy healthcare regardless of their personal needs and desires, lowers the opportunity for students to find a job, and forces them to subsidize other citizens. Those factors, coupled with the fiscal strain accompanying the precarious college years, seem like a nightmare out of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

The nightmare immediately gets worse. On top of the cost for textbooks, room and board, tuition, transportation, etc, college students are overwhelmed with debt from student loans. As of May 2011, student financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz estimated a college student can expect $34,000 in debt.[1] Many healthy college students—eager to save in any area they can—would rather forgo expensive health insurance plans and chance incurring medical expenses. Unfortunately, Obamacare forces every citizen to buy healthcare, regardless of how they want to spend their money.

My potential bosses are being hit hard under Obamacare as well. Businesses are required to provide healthcare for each employee or face a penalty. It is often more profitable for smaller companies to pay the $2,000 fee per uninsured employee than pay to insure them. This particularly effects college students. CNN Money reported that unemployment rates for college students jumped to 8.7% in 2009 from 5.8% in 2008. With companies facing high healthcare fees for every hired employee, they will certainly think twice about hiring a young person with limited experience like me. According to Matt Patterson, a policy analyst at the National Center for Public Policy Research, “small-business owners… might be forced to lay off their lowest-paid employees to comply with the law.”[2] This chilling information leaves me with one question: If I can’t find a job, how am I going to pay off my student loans?

Even more appalling than being forced to buy healthcare, over the next decade Obamacare will add $1 trillion to the law in the form of subsidized coverage.[3] Similarly, the CBO estimates that by 2018, 19 million individuals who purchased the policy through exchanges will receive subsidies.[4] Not only do my bills increase because of my own healthcare plan, but I am obligated to subsidize those who can not afford it. Is it really my job as a college student to support them, when I am struggling to pay off my own loans?

And those are just the immediate consequences of the bill. Because of Obamacare, the debt is expected to skyrocket higher than the already $14 trillion number. The projected spending of the Obamacare package is “$4 trillion in new spending over the next twenty years… with $900 billion in new spending over the next decade.”[5] While those numbers are projected over the next ten years, my generation will have to foot the bill. As I get older and gain work experience, I will—hopefully—be earning more money than I was in college. However, with that opportunity comes a price. Private citizens earning over $379,000 are required to give 35% of their wealth to the federal government.[6] And even if my income taxes do not increase significantly, I will be effected by the government controlling private sector materials, such as “less job creation, slowed wage growth, and economic hardship for our country”[7]. I just hope by that time, I will have paid off my college loans.

At a crucial point in their lives, college students are being assailed by Obama’s new healthcare plan. Taxes will increase dramatically as the probability of finding a job will plummet. For a plan that was supposed to benefit the whole of society, The Patient Protection and Affordable Act’s true colors are beginning to show. The President has been quoted saying, “If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep it.” But my question is, “If I don’t want the healthcare plan, do I have to keep it?”

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