A version of this article originally appeared on the Roosevelt Institute's New Deal 2.0.
Health policy is an issue that provokes strong sentiments — and often, great controversy — by bringing questions of body, mortality, disease, and wellness into the public arena. For a recent example, we need only look to the 2010 midterm elections, when House Democrats lost their majority to a wave of Tea Party Republicans in what many attributed to blowback from the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The dispute over health care reform, like many issues in health policy, concerns the nature of paternalistic public health. Policymakers and their constituents review the (often conflicting) evidence and ask themselves to what extent they are comfortable with the level of government involvement in their personal health. Where the benefits of public intervention outweigh the intrusion of government into our individual choices, we accept policy.
At the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network, we contend that health care is not only a choice, but a fundamental right of every American. It may surprise some to see millennials so engaged in issues of health care. After all, this is an arena that many seasoned policymakers find too byzantine to approach. In my role as the Senior Fellow for Health Policy at the Campus Network, I’ve learned that our approach to health policy is reflective not just of the timeliness of the issue but of the core values and principles of my generation.
Last year, we worked on a project that built a “health care toolkit” for college students. This year, we’re pleased to see a rapid expansion of health coverage for young people. According to a recent revision of official estimates, 2.5 million young Americans aged 19-25 have gained health care coverage since September 2010. A little over a year ago, 64.4 percent of young Americans had health insurance; since then, that proportion has risen to 72.7 percent. Known collectively as the “invincibles,” Americans aged 19-25 are accustomed to being left in the blind spot of health coverage. Those days are now largely over.
Among the many projections made by the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, the ACA is estimated to “increase net economic well-being by roughly $100 billion a year” and increase real GDP by 8 percent through 2030 relative to the no-reform baseline. The Congressional Budget Office also links a “net reduction in federal deficits of $143 billion over the 2010-2019 period” to the ACA.
This year, you can find our values and belief in the power of health care policy front and center in the pages of our 10 Ideas for Health Care series. The 10 Ideas series is a flagship publication of the Campus Network. But we are not stopping at writing policy. The Health Policy Center of the Campus Network is also engaged in a policy project this year. With the Farm Bill slated for reauthorization in the coming months, we believe there’s a special opportunity for the Millennial generation to engage in a debate that will shape America’s eating habits and access to healthy food.
Containing 10 titles ranging from funding and regulation for conservation programs to commodity futures markets, the Farm Bill was last reauthorized in 2008 at the cost of $283.9 billion. Of the $283.9 billion appropriated in 2008, $188.3 billion went to just one of the 10 titles — nutrition. This title, which accounted then for two-thirds of the bill and is now estimated to occupy a 70 percent share, consists largely of funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (what is formerly known as food stamps), food and nutrition guidelines under the purview of the FDA and USDA, and school meal programs.
The Campus Network Health Policy Center will be spending the coming months building a coalition of think tanks, food organizations, and youth groups to take a stand on our nation’s largest food-based legislation. Modeled after the Network’s Blueprint for a Millennial America, we aim to present a Millennial Farm Bill.
Through each of these efforts, it’s clear that my generation is engaging the strong sentiments of health policy with strong proposals. We’re informed by our values, the privileges and responsibilities that come with higher education, and the drive to detail the change we see necessary. We’re here to speak health to power.
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