The health care reform bill contains a lot of bad provisions – but one that has been touted on both sides of the aisle allows for parents to keep their children on their plans until age 26 (or longer, if states permit.) In theory, this is a nice gesture. Young people who may have just graduated college will have health insurance and won’t have to fear falling ill or getting in an accident and paying burdensome medical bills. Of course, parents will pay to keep them on as dependents, much like they do with younger children. Everyone wins, right?

Actually, no.

True, this policy does provide a safety net. But it also extends adolescence by another several years, sending a message to the country’s recent college graduates that it’s okay to not pull your own weight and to ride on the coattails of others. At the end of the day, we’ve encouraged our youth to shirk responsibility for a while longer. In addition, it may also set kids up to expect their needs to be taken care of by others in the future… like, perhaps, a benevolent federal government to pay their health bills and save for their retirement. Are those the values we want to pass on to future generations?

Getting a part-time job in high school taught generations of Americans the value of a dollar and the importance of hard work. As a society, we should encourage our children to be self-reliant — not to depend on the kindness of strangers.