Students debate health care options, policy

Ask any student what the hot-button political issue of the day is, and if “healthcare” isn’t the first thing out of their mouth, it should be pretty close to it. With marches in Washington, town hall meetings devolving into yelling matches and supporters of both sides of the issue viciously attacking the other, it’s safe to say that the state of America’s health system is on many minds at the moment.

On Thursday, September 17, the Tech chapter of the Roosevelt Institute held an open forum, what they called a “fireside chat,” on the topic of healthcare. The Roosevelt Institute is a national student think-tank that encourages its members to debate issues facing the nation today and attempt to find solutions to them.

Shikha Choudhury, fourth-year ME, president of Tech’s chapter of the Roosevelt Institute, said, “[The Roosevelt Institute’s] goal is to research, debate, and put forward ideas that are festering in the student body due to our academic pressures. We want students to know they are more than just what is on their graduate certificate.”

The point of the debate wasn’t just so students could discuss the problem with each other.

Kristofer Carta, fourth year HTS and VP of Operations for the Tech chapter of the Roosevelt Institute said, “The real goal is to, at the end of this, to come up with…a policy we think would help the healthcare dilemma in America.”

Each chapter of the Roosevelt Institute gathers information and suggestions from its members before sending it up the chain of command to the national level, where the best ideas are forwarded on to several US senators.

The discussion itself consisted of nine students. Most students present supported health reform and some form of a public option for healthcare.

Choudhury said, “We can’t accept healthcare, as conservatives see it, as just another resource to purchase.”

This support was only encouraged by information distributed at the meeting, with two facts standing out from the rest. First, that the US spends more than any other nation on healthcare, and, second, that the quality of healthcare provided ranks 37th in the world, far below countries that spend far less.

Understandably, many students present at the meeting were outraged by these statistics. Andrew Willis, fourth year AE, said, “What we’re putting into the system are sky-rocketing premiums and what we’re getting out is 37th best quality? That’s just insane behavior for the supposed world-wide leader in healthcare.”

In order to counter this, one of the largest concerns students believe needs to be addressed is how difficult it is for many individuals to receive healthcare, and receive it on a timely basis.

Carta said, “The reason we’re so far behind is accessibility, and the fact that so many in our country don’t have access to healthcare.”

Many see broadening coverage, with particular attention paid to those who can’t afford insurance and those with pre-existing conditions, as an important component of this. In his address to Congress, President Obama mentioned that it makes better business-sense for insurance companies to cut their most expensive clients, and, as grim as it may be, some students see the logic behind this. Carta said, “[Insurance companies] have no incentive to care for their policy holders at the moment.”

That’s not to say that students aren’t concerned what more government involvement in healthcare could mean for efficiency. Even those students at the chat that were for more government involvement believed that in order for health care reform to work, particularly a public option, special consideration would have to be given to how the system was implemented.

Currently, plans are in the works in Congress, but have failed to garner much support from the GOP, mostly due to the high price tags associated with them. Senator Max Baucus (D. MT), recently presented one of the newer plans in the system, with a price tag around $750 billion, which is relatively conservative compared to some other plans.

In his September 16 address to Congress, Obama laid out his hope for healthcare reform. Chief among them are mandated insurance, restricting private companies from denying individuals insurance, and pursuing a public option.

Students point to successful government-sponsored programs in other countries – like Denmark and Taiwan – as examples that prove reformed healthcare would work in the US.