Healthcare controversy continues in Ott Auditorium
February 21, 2011 —
“Allow and amend” or “Repeal and replace?”
These slogans represent the viewpoints of those for or against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. The act, which was signed into law March 23, 2010 by President Obama, has been labeled “Obamacare” by those who call the law unconstitutional because of the provision that requires all Americans to buy health insurance or face fines.
To provide more information about the law and its possible effects, the College of Arts and Behavioral Sciences sponsored “Overturning Obamacare.” A panel of four professors and two students took part in the event Monday, Feb. 14.
While the law by itself is unpopular, Drew Hinderer, professor of philosophy and the Finkbeiner Endowed Ethics chair, said that many individual provisions are more popular than expected. Hinderer, who prepared a presentation before the panel discussion took place, outlined some of the problems in the U.S. healthcare system. He said that the three biggest criticisms of the system are “cost, quality and access.”
Karen Brown-Fackler, associate professor of nursing, agreed. She said that we now have “partial sick care” and explained that most people are only able to afford doctor visits when a serious health problem arises.
She added that during her time as a nurse, she saw many infants develop life-long health problems because their mothers lacked the finances to obtain proper prenatal care.
According to a World Health Organization report, the U.S. ranks 22nd in the world for rates of infant mortality. The rate reflects how many children die within the year in which they are born.
The cost of health care concerned Fackler as well. She noted that 62 percent of all personal bankruptcies in 2007 in the U.S. were related to medical expenses. 78 percent of those filing for bankruptcy had medical insurance.
“We are the only Western nation that fails to provide a basic level of service,” she said.
As part of the health care law, individuals are required to purchase health insurance. Hinderer said that this mandate was “clearly the most controversial part of the law.”
Meghan Cherry, political science professor, said that the mandates are the key requirement for the law to work.
“Removing the individual mandate hurts insurance companies,” she explained.
She added that other provisions of the law now require insurance companies to spend at least 75 percent of their income on patient care and bar them from denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions.
Christopher Surfield, professor of economics, also said that the individual mandate was important. He explained that with the way the system works, the premiums people pay while healthy go to offset expenses incurred when they are sick.
The reason that the individual mandate is needed, he added, is that the “people who are most apt to buy health insurance are the ones the health insurance companies don’t want to provide service to.”
This is because people tend to only buy insurance if they think they are going to need it.
“Everyone’s in the pool or the pool collapses,” Surfield said.
Cherry noted that there is a balance between the interests of insurance and drug companies, hospitals and the general public.
“Repeal efforts attack the effort to keep the balance,” she said.
Critics of the law have said that the individual mandate is unconstitutional. Currently, two federal courts have ruled the provision is unconstitutional. However, two other courts have ruled that the provision is constitutional. Several members of the panel agreed that the Supreme Court will ultimately decide the fate of the law.
Following the discussion, audience members were allowed to ask questions. One audience member asked why doctors she had talked to are against the law.
Cherry said that “we tend to prefer specialty care” that pays more to the doctors who providing it. However, she said that modifications will not be readily accepted.
“Change is never popular,” she said.