“What do you know about the health care debate?”
“Not as much as I would like to,” says junior Julia Strumpell.
This was a common answer amongst student interviewees when prompted to share their perception of the health care debate, though many admitted with a shrug of their shoulders that they knew nothing of the bill and the tensions surrounding it.
Late Saturday, Nov. 7, the House of Representatives passed its version of the Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962). Though this is an important step in the right direction for the bill’s proponents, the Senate must still pass its own version of the bill, after which Congress will vote on the final draft.
The general consensus amongst McDaniel students is that the campus community remains largely unaware of what this reform is and what it means for Generation Y, a scary fact, given that young adults aged 19-29 make up almost one-third of the uninsured population. More than 100 students were contacted for interviews and polling purposes, and of that number, 35 responded.
“I think most people are uninformed about health care,” says Scott Camuto, a sophomore and treasurer of the College Libertarians.
While many students claimed to have little to no knowledge about health care, apathy was not a prevalent theme.
“The school should have some kind of informational fair. They [insurance companies] should inform the public about what kinds of insurance are available to them,” says Douglas Rivera, a sophomore.
While many aren’t familiar with the ins and outs of the legislative process, most are aware of the hot-button issues. If current versions of the bill are passed, the public option would allow citizens to opt for government-run health insurance rather than seeking coverage through private providers. Those in favor of the public option believe it will make insurance more readily available to those who can’t afford it, while also keeping private insurance companies in check by providing competition. Those opposed hold ideological convictions against socialized health care, and many fear the amount of spending it will require.
According to the House’s version of the bill, the public option would cost $2 billion to implement, which would be repaid over a period of ten years. It also states that the public option is not eligible for federal funds in the form of a bailout.
“I think that a public option is absolutely necessary because there are a lot of people in this country working for under a living wage, and are unable to afford healthcare as it stands right now,” says junior and commuter student Chris Bolesta.
Students cite any number of influencing factors when it comes to taking a stance on the issue. Most view it from a personal standpoint, due to friends and family who are uninsured, but some reference other external factors.
“I will say that I have been influenced by my professors,” says Camuto, adding that Dr. John Olsh helped him to formulate his opinion that the public option would cause more economical harm than good.
Senior Maire Hunter says that her experience abroad influenced her views: “I spent some time in Denmark with friends, and the fact that I didn’t have to take out traveler’s insurance meant a lot to me. Their taxes are higher, but they get a lot of things, like a public option, as a result.”
Countries such as Denmark, Canada, and Sweden are often cited on both sides of the aisle to support views for or against their government-run health care systems. Many argue in favor of the public option, referencing the high approval ratings from these countries’ citizens. However, others express concerns that implementing a similar plan will create problems for doctors and others who provide healthcare.
“My mom is a dermatologist, and she’s against socialized medicine because it will mean less money for doctors, and the system will be less efficient,” says junior Katherine Anwyll.
Still, some students support the idea of a public option while expressing concerns over possible complications.
“While I completely support the public option, I don’t believe this country is ready to be taxed to the point to pay for it,” says Raezel Geiser, a sophomore and member of the College Democrats. “We need to get what we can passed, and gradually increase our public resources, then eventually introduce a public option.”
Of the students who shared their views on health care reform, the majority is in favor of implementing the public option, and even those who aren’t recognize that some sort of reform needs to occur. For more information, the entire text of H.R. 3962 is available at opencongress.org.