As seniors put finishing touches on their résumés, sharpen their interview skills, iron their suits, and make plans for life beyond Bowdoin, there's one important consideration that seems surprisingly neglected: health care. It's a debate that is raging in both houses of Congress but, aside from these pages, is absent from our politically minded campus. Despite its current ubiquity in the news, we would be hard-pressed to find the phrase "public option" uttered anywhere at Bowdoin outside of a government class. But it's time to face the facts.
For graduating seniors and classes to follow, do we just count on the fact that we'll find well-compensated jobs with adequate health care plans? Or do we admit the possibility that we may end up jobless for a while, without the safety and benefits afforded by plans of our parents or school?
Beyond post-graduate issues of housing, taxes and job markets, understanding the issue of sweeping health care reform that's on the table right now, while in its infancy, is critical. As the next generation of potential health insurance buyers, this is an issue beyond partisan politics, with the potential to affect all of us. As President Barack Obama said to the University of Maryland on September 17, "health care is about more than the details of a policy. It's about what kind of country you want to be." While we're eager to discuss the College's Health Center policies—the good, the bad and the swine—we should look beyond the bubble to see how our nation, more broadly, handles health care.
We've seen Bowdoin students rally around Maine's upcoming November ballot, where the people will vote whether to overturn "An Act to Promote Marriage Equality and Affirm Religious Freedom," signed into effect by Governor Baldacci in May. Spurring discussion about same-sex marriage and encouraging students to vote on the ballot; these are important tasks that groups on campus have taken to heart, which should be extended to health care reform. We need to ask ourselves: Can a public option work for America? What are we willing to pay for change? Does our health care system even need reform?
To claim health care reform as a student issue and take on these questions, we must educate ourselves—first about our own health care policies, then about what is happening, or can happen, in Washington. Whatever insurance plan you are or aren't on, understanding what your coverage actually covers is the start of a valuable learning process.
By figuring out what we do or don't need in a plan, what we do or don't want from a government policy, and what we do or don't value in our nation, we can make informed decisions about what we need for tomorrow.