A Soak-the-Young Strategy

August 31, 1994|By SUSAN AU ALLEN

Washington -- As it now stands, the vast majority of today's youth are at their peak physical condition, and as a consequence, pay the lowest annual health-insurance premiums of any age group. That is the way it should be. Few Americans, I think, want our youngsters to be paying health insurance for those of us who are past our 40th, 50th or 60th birthdays. We have a responsibility to take care of our own bills and aging parents, while helping our children grow wings so they can learn to fly as adults.

Yet, some of the health-care proposals before Congress would result in a doubling or even tripling of their annual health-care premiums. In New York state, where a community-rating system has gone into effect, premiums for 30-year-olds went from $1,200 a year to $3,240 while costs of coverage for 60-year-olds dropped from an average $5,880 a year to $3,240.

We know what that means. Fewer young people will be able to continue their educational plans. It will take longer for our young people to save to start a family. It will take longer to save to start a business or pay off educational loans. More young people will have to hold two jobs just to make ends meet.

Right now, many of our young people are having a very hard time making it out in the world, and are forced to return to their nest. Can you imagine what will happen with premium increases doubling or tripling? The nests may never empty.

The argument that today's young generation will have their turn in lower premiums when they get old is obviously fallacious. It presupposes that future generations will have the ability to pay higher premiums, but they may not have that ability if they do not have maximum economic opportunities to begin life's journey.

Unfortunately, few young people understand all that is at stake in the health-care debate, and that's what can kill them.

There is no powerful interest group in Washington representing young people. Congress needs to represent them. Sponsors of health-care measures have a responsibility to issue a youth-impact statement on their proposals, so both the Congress and the people will have an understanding of what these proposals will do to future generations.

We should ask for that youth-impact statement from our Senators and Representatives, and share what we learn with our friends. Perhaps by asking for the impact statement, we may get our political representatives to focus on the young, not just the aging and deserving poor. Collectively, we may have a very positive impact on this important issue. We may be able to remove burdens rather then adding them.

When the election races occur this fall, and we hear candidates declare their concern for the young, we will know by their views on a youth-impact statement just how great their concern is.

Susan Au Allen is president of the U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce.

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