Campus torn over health care bill
As President Barack Obama signed his historic health care overhaul bill into law Tuesday, he thanked his supporters in Congress and across the country for what he called, “a victory for the United State of America.”
Not everyone agrees, including political science senior Nicholas Smith.
“I can’t support this bill,” Smith said. “It’s government exercising more control over the people. I don’t like being told to buy health insurance whether I need it or not.”
Smith isn’t alone in his concerns. Since Obama’s first call for health care reform in February 2009, which fueled heated debates and furthered partisan divides, conservatives have largely disagreed with the government, “growing out of control.”
The health reform bill would require Americans to purchase health insurance, whether through a private insurer or their employer. Low and middle-income Americans, or a yearly income of about $44,000 for one person, would receive government subsidies to help pay for the coverage, and those who don’t purchase insurance would be subject to fines.
These guarantees in coverage are a primary reason why UH assistant professor of political science Elizabeth Rigby said the bill is imperfect but a necessary step forward where others have failed.
“We’ve seen presidents try to reform health care for 100 years, so while the bill is a huge compromise, it’s long overdue,” Rigby said.
She said that the bill would affect students and young adults the most, particularly those who work part-time or for a small business that doesn’t provide health insurance.
“Young people often opt not to have health insurance, so this will change their behavior more than any other group. But to the student who spends four years in college, graduates and can’t find a full-time job with health insurance, this bill gives them an option,” Rigby said.
Health insurance companies would also be forbidden from denying coverage to those with pre-existing medical conditions, would face regulations on rising health premiums and children would be able to stay on their parent’s insurance policies until they’re 26 years old.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the $940 billion bill would cover an estimated 32 million more people and would cut the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion over 20 years. The major coverage expansion will go into effect in 2014.
Meanwhile, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed a lawsuit Tuesday alongside 12 other states, saying the bill violates the US Constitution.
Biology senior Scott Allen said he agrees with the lawsuit and that the health care bill endangers civil liberties.
“I don’t like it. I think it’s an attack on our freedoms, and it’ll just determine what kind of treatment we’ll be able to get,” Allen said.
Rigby, while acknowledging the bill will coerce some into purchasing insurance who don’t anticipate getting sick, challenged the notion that the health care bill was a government takeover.
“There are going to be new regulations on insurance companies, but it’s not going to determine who can get an organ transplant and who can’t. There’s no public option. We’re still using the private insurance market, so it’s not direct government control like the military or a post office is,” Rigby said.
Other students, including psychology senior Larissa Gonzalez, welcomed the bill as something she’s waited long to see, specifically the provision for children to remain on a parent’s policy.
“I think it has the potential to help a lot of people and to do a lot of good,” Gonzalez said. “No one should have to lose their home or their job because they get sick. Hopefully they won’t now.”