One year after health care reform became law, I want to reflect on the difference it has made in my life.
Without health care reform, I would not be here today—literally. Alive? Well, yes. Interning in Washington, DC? Definitely not.
When I graduated last spring, I started looked for a job in bioethics or advocacy for women (two very different areas, I know). I had actually started looking about six months before that but was hoping I’d find something after graduation. I didn’t. It quickly became apparent that without knowing someone or having more experience, I was going to remain unemployed. Who knew that instead of wasting all my time in the classroom, I should have been working the internship scene?
At this point, I had three options:
- Try to find a job at the University before my lease ran out
- Move back to my parents’ house in Michigan to look for a job in the one of the worst economies in the nation
- Find an internship to actually put some experience on my resume
The first option didn’t work out. Option two wasn’t exactly appealing to me, but I was willing to give it a try. I started applying to both jobs and internships from home. Somehow, magically, I was offered an internship at a big-name group in DC that advocated for women. It was paid, but barely (a stipend). There were obviously no benefits involved. I debated waiting for a better offer, but realized that this was it.
There is no way I would have been able to do this without health care reform. I was able to use the new under-26 provision to do something constructive for myself. Otherwise, I would probably have gone uninsured, or taken a position just for the insurance. Otherwise, my insurance would have expired in December; Hopefully, I would have found something administrative near my parents.
That’s not so bad, you might say, you can get a lot of good experience that way. This is true. I probably would also be more financially secure. I acknowledge that lots of people do this, and that it can have its benefits.
However, I wouldn’t have been embarking on a career in the same way. Taking the internship allowed me to demonstrate my interest in women’s rights. It helped me make useful contacts and expand my networks. Moving to DC is what got me involved in Fem2pt0, Twitter, the Women’s Information Network…you get the idea.
It also helped me gain admittance to some top-notch law schools. Again, the internship demonstrated my passion and work experience. More importantly, it helped focus my life goals. Before the internship, I only had a vague inkling of what I wanted to do. Afterwards, I had a solid life plan, issues I cared about, and a personal narrative. That allowed me to write a killer personal statement, one of the important “soft” factors in admissions. Could I have gotten in without the internship? To some schools, yes. But this definitely gave me an edge.
So, you say, this is a great story, but why does it matter for women? This is a feminist blog, after all. I’ll tell you why: this is a tough economy for everyone, but especially for recent college grads. While I have issues with the idea of internships, they can help young people network and gain experience. Many companies (especially non-profits) hire entry-level positions from their current or former interns.
Moreover, AAUW research shows that just one year out of college, women are already earning only 80% of their male colleagues. This is truly unacceptable. We need to address this problem by encouraging mentorship of younger women and by making sure they have job opportunities down the road. An internship can serve as an important source for both of these resources.
Without the coverage provided by health care reform, few of us would be able to take these internships. We would miss out on the opportunity to learn and grow, and yes, to add to our resumes. This reduces employment prospects later.
So, on behalf of all the young women affected by this, I just wanted to say thanks to the 111th Congress. Thanks for supporting health care reform and making sure that I stayed covered. It made a significant difference.
This post was written in conjunction with the National Women’s Law Center’s Women’s Health Blog-a-thon, celebrating the passage of the Affordable Care Act.