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Graduates Forced to Join Millions of Uninsured Americans
Date:5/23/2008

AUSTIN, Texas, May 23 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Across the state this May, Texas college and university graduates might find themselves collecting more than just a diploma and a tassel. For many, graduation means an increase in debt, and a decrease in health insurance.

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The cost of higher education is no insignificant financial burden. As students complete school and join the workforce, educational debt forces many to forgo the "luxury" of health insurance.

According to a 2006 report issued by the Project on Student Debt, Texas college graduates can expect to pay more than $18,300 in student loan debt. And roughly 56 percent of Texas graduates will face college loan payments.

"When college graduates enter the workforce with a large education debt and no health care insurance, lifetime financial security is that much harder to achieve," said Bob Jackson, AARP Texas State Director.

But college and university students aren't the only graduates with impending financial and health care woes. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2003 that college and university graduates receive an income that more than doubles that of the average high school graduate. And according to the Economic Policy Institute, a non-profit, nonpartisan think tank, employer-provided health insurance for jobs secured by high school graduates fell from 63 percent in 1979 to roughly 35 percent in 2002.

It may come as no surprise that young adults age 18-24 are the least likely Americans to have health insurance. In a 2006 survey, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) revealed that about 30 percent of these young adults lack a usual place to go when they're sick or need medical advice, and an equal percentage are uninsured.

This statistic is familiar to Lauren McPhail and Emily Travis, both recent graduates of Southwestern University in Georgetown. McPhail, who was dropped from her parents' health insurance plan when she turned 22, received only very basic health insurance coverage from Southwestern while she was still a student.

"I got pretty sick this year and had to pay out of pocket for almost everything," McPhail said. "Paying the doctor fees for minor visits -- it adds up."

As a graduate, McPhail will receive no coverage.

"I want to jump into the creative job market or work in an art gallery," she said. "My chances of getting health insurance covered are slim. I'm afraid of getting sick again."

Travis, who spent a year teaching English in Avignon, France after graduating last year, will return to Austin soon. An asthma sufferer, Travis worries that her parents' insurance will not re-instate her because of her pre-existing condition.

"I don't know about you, but I rather enjoy the God-given right to breathe," Travis said. "I'd just better hope and pray that nothing bad happens to me."

Joey Williams, who will graduate this summer from the University of Texas at Austin, worries that he and his friends who aren't immediately able to find a job with adequate health care benefits will suffer catastrophic consequences.

"A lack of health insurance could ruin your life, literally. All it takes is one simple mishap," Williams said. "You're in the hospital loaded with an overwhelming hospital bill. Those kinds of things will actually ruin you."

McPhail also worries for her friends.

"Young adults are less likely to have costly problems, but most of us do not have the income to pay for minor costs," she said. "The problem will continue to worsen if we don't treat it now. More of us will go into debt or have a longer recovery process from illness because we waited so long for treatment."

It's time we ensure health and long-term financial security for all. That's why AARP, Business Roundtable, the Service Employees International Union and the National Federation of Independent Business are leading Divided We Fail, an initiative to give voice to millions of Americans who are tired of letting Washington gridlock stand in the way of affordable, quality health care and long-term financial security - the most pressing domestic issues facing our nation. Common sense solutions are needed, and everyone - individuals, businesses and government - has a role and a responsibility in ensuring health and financial security for all.

The non-partisan, non-profit, intergenerational campaign has gained the support of 80 diverse organizations, 294 members of Congress, and more than half a million American voters who have signed a pledge promising to only support political candidates who offer action and answers on matters concerning health care and financial security. AARP believes that bi-partisan cooperation is the key to ensuring access to affordable healthcare and financial security for every American.

"For the first time in our nation's history, the current generation does not believe that the next generation will be better off financially," Jackson said. "We can change both the mindset and the reality, but we must act now."

For more information on Divided We Fail, please visit http://www.dividedwefail.org.


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SOURCE AARP-Texas
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