Congress just passed health and education legislation that will benefit students and young adults. I voted for this measure and, as your representative in Congress, a nurse and former teacher, I’d like to explain why.

Health care coverage is important. Hopefully, you’ll remain healthy for years but accidents and illness can strike anyone at anytime. In addition, studies show that the uninsured are less likely to go for regular care, and all too often this allows small, annoying ailments to become costly, life-threatening crises. The new health reform law will help you get and keep the care you need to stay healthy and active for life.

For example, starting this year you’ll be allowed to remain on your parents’ health plan until the age of 26. No more scrambling for coverage after graduation.

If that’s not an option and you can’t get coverage through your new job, you’ll be able to pick from a choice of affordable plans available through new state “exchanges.” You might even receive financial help to buy a plan depending on your income.

In addition, the new law bans insurance companies from turning you down if you have a so-called pre-existing condition. They won’t be able to charge women more for coverage just because they are women (and, yes, we had to pass a law to put a stop to that). They also won’t be able to put arbitrary limits on your annual or lifetime coverage. And your plan will now cover important preventive care, such as cervical cancer screenings for women, without co-pays.

Which brings me to the second part of this legislation — help with the cost of your education. I know state budget cuts mean UCSB students are facing large tuition increases. But as a former teacher I also know how important a good education is to your future and the future of our country. That is why, at the federal level, I am doing everything I can to make college more affordable.

For those considering a health care career, this bill will help you get the education needed to become a doctor, nurse or other health professional. You’ll have better access to affordable loans, loan repayment programs and scholarships. And you may benefit from programs to encourage greater diversity in America’s health care workforce.

The bill enacts a new law, the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA), which reforms the federal student loan program. SAFRA replaces the current program which subsidizes banks making essentially no-risk student loans (the government guarantees the loans). New federally backed student loans will now originate exclusively through the successful Direct Loan program, saving taxpayers about $60 billion.

Most of those savings will go right back into education by increasing Pell Grants to nearly $6,000 by 2017 and making them more widely available. In my Congressional District alone — which includes UCSB, Cal Poly, City College and other schools — more than $48 million in new Pell Grants will be available to students. And Pell Grants will now also be indexed annually to keep up with the rising cost of living.

Student loan repayments will also be made more affordable. For many borrowers, the percentage of their income going to loan repayments will be capped and loan balances for responsible borrowers will be eligible for complete forgiveness earlier. Finally, the Direct Loan program, unlike the old private lender-based program, is insulated from wild market swings, keeping loan rates, terms and conditions more stable.

You can get more information on these and other issues on my website ( and on my Facebook page.

This important legislation will make health care and a college education more affordable and accessible to all young Americans. And that’s something that you should be thinking about! 

Go Gauchos!