In an effort to educate students about the various facets of health care reform, a student group held a panel discussion Thursday featuring experts who attempted to explain the issues in simple terms.
The panel, held at Taper Hall by the USC chapter of the California Public Interest Research Group, included various experts on the issue including USC professors, a CalPIRG advocate and California State Assemblyman Mike Davis. For CalPIRG, the event was an opportunity to get students to relate to a national debate that might otherwise go over their heads.
“The most important thing, as a citizen, is to be educated,” said Yvette Ferrer, the chair of USC CalPIRG who helped organize the event. “The health care debate can seem obtuse, and it’s often hard to grasp what’s going on. We’re hoping to make this issue more personable to the students.”
Each panelist presented a different aspect of the issue of health care reform for the audience of about 55, covering the basics of the legislation being proposed by Congress, the problems of the country’s uninsured population and the difficulty of changing the system.
“One of the most important things to look at with health care reform is how it relates to America’s core values,” Davis said. “Do we really value the health care of our citizens?”
Davis made the argument that the country needed some version of a universal health care system that holds employers accountable, prompting questions and debate from students and other experts on the panel.
“The biggest problem is the lack of a system to control the cost of health care,” said Michael Cousineau, an associate professor at the Keck School of Medicine. “This might undermine our goal of universal coverage.”
Cousineau, also attempted to make the debate relevant for college students by explaining the need for and nuances of health insurance.
“The age group with the highest percentage without health insurance are those from 18 to 25,” Cousineau said. “The reason why is, they have no job, they just got out of college, it can take months to get coverage and they have choose between offers.”
Each panelist’s presentation was followed by a question-and-answer session, covering other facets of the debate such as how abortions are covered in the new legislation and what students can do to create change in health care reform.
Although the questions often led to debates between the panelists, Ferrer said she believes offering multiple views is an important part of making health care reform a more tangible, relevant issue for students.
But Geoffrey Joyce, an associate professor of Clinical Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Economics & Policy and director of Health Policy at Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at USC, said he is unsure about the effectiveness of such events for students.
“These educational programs are valuable, but they only reach people who are receptive to learning about it,” Joyce said. “They simply won’t educate a large fraction of the student population.”
Still, Joyce was pleased that a part of the panel focused on insurance, saying it was the most important facet of health care reform pertaining to students.
“The problem with this [individual mandate on health insurance] is that many students are young and healthy, and the premiums they’ll have to pay will be higher than the expected benefits,” Joyce said.
A number of students who
attended the event said they had learned more about the national debate from the panel.
“Each panelist did a great job of providing thorough explanations of health care reform,” said Andrenna Hidalgo, a junior majoring in political science.
Rebecca Braun, a freshman majoring in international relations, said she appreciated the multiple viewpoints presented in the session.
“I really like how the different panelists all offered different perspectives on the issue,” Braun said. “I have a much more informed and
well-rounded opinion about health care reform.”
Representatives from CalPIRG said they thought the panel had been a successful way of bringing the health care debate to students in a fair manner.
“The student turnout was more than I was expecting, and it was nice to see the various viewpoints on the issue,” said Ravi Mahesh, a sophomore majoring in economics and political science who helped organize the event. “In the end, I feel like it was up to the audience to decide how they felt about [health care reform].”