At a panel discussion on Wednesday, experts and students weighted the impact of the Affordable Care Act on young people.
Though the topic at hand was timely in light of the act’s role in the government shutdown, the panelists instead focused on informing the audience about the Affordable Care Act in general.
The USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences’ Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics in conjunction with the Schwarzenegger Institute hosted its weekly Students Talk Back discussion about the Affordable Care Act on Wednesday afternoon.
The Students Talk Back series features panelists and students in a discussion of political events that allows the audience to gain valuable insight into each topic.
These forums, which began five years ago, are a collaboration between the Unruh Institute and USC Sol Price School of Public Policy’s Schwarzenegger Institute.
This week’s discussion focused on the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and specified what effects it could have on those in the 18- to 34-year-old age group.
The panelists each offered their own unique take on universal healthcare, drawing from their own fields of study, as well as personal experiences.
The panelists on Wednesday were Sarah Axeen, a doctoral candidate at the USC School of Policy, Planning and Development; Tamika Butler, the California director of Young Invincibles, a national organization dedicated to helping 18- to 34-year-olds learn about health insurance; Dana Goldman, the USC Norman Topping Chair in Medicine and Public Policy and director of the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics and Julia Wick, a senior majoring in policy, planning and development.
Butler focused on debunking public perceptions about young people’s opinions on health care.
“When you talk to young people, there is this misconception that young people don’t want insurance,” Butler said. “[Insurance companies’] logic has been, ‘Don’t waste your marketing dollars on them, they don’t want to get insured, they don’t want it, they’re young, relatively healthy and they think they’re invincible.’”
Butler tied in her own personal experience to emphasize why she felt health insurance should be a bigger issue to young people.
“I’m pretty clumsy, so I know I’m not invincible,” Butler said. “We all know people like this, we all know young adults who actually do want insurance.”
According to Butler, surveys show that the main reasons young people do not have health insurance is because they cannot afford it, they are too old to stay on their parents’ plan or they are unemployed.
“All those issues are going to be addressed by the Affordable Care Act,” Butler said.
Goldman offered additional insight into the economics and the potential fiscal consequences of the Affordable Care Act.
“The question is: Are the benefits too generous? Will they grow over time? So next year, what if it turns out that not enough young people enrolled?” Goldman asked. “I don’t think we have to modify the act. We need to figure it out … We need to see what happens. If everyone said, ‘Can we make this law work?’ the answer is that actually yes, we just need to figure out maybe we should be less generous and have more penalties.”
Many of the students who attended the event said they enjoyed the variety of perspectives offered by the panelists.
“What was really good about this panel was the variety of the panelists who had different areas of expertise in the same topic,” said Lena Hoober, a graduate student studying chemistry. “I think [Goldman] made some excellent points. We need to really focus on what is making health care so expensive in this country and why this is such an important issue to solve.”
Wick also said she enjoyed the wide range of perspectives offered by the panelists as well as how passionate they were about the topic.
“We had really engaging speakers and I learned things that I didn’t know [until today],” Wick said. “I really liked the juxtaposition of having someone like Tamika who really does outreach, and someone like Dana, who is so well versed in the policy issues and their greater implications.”
Candy Hwang, a doctoral candidate studying chemistry, said she attended the forum to learn more about the Affordable Care Act and its effects on Congress’ decision to shut down the federal government.
“I wanted to learn more about [the Affordable Care Act] because the government shutdown is happening now, and we don’t all really know why it is happening. All we hear is ‘Obamacare’ and the House and Senate can’t agree on bills, and it deals with this Affordable Care Act,” Hwang said. “The only thing I’ve heard is that the Affordable Care Act is a law, but right now Congress is fighting over it. It was really great to come because [the panelists] talked about this act and how it affects students that are our age.”