CalPIRG holds panel to discuss health care reform

On the first day that the new Affordable Care Act goes into effect, California’s Public Interest Research Group held a panel discussion to importance of the bill and what it means for young adults.

“What we’re celebrating today is really just the first step toward creating a system that actually functions,” said USC medical student Joshua Lilienstein.

Lilienstein was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2006, while in medical school. He said his saga of trials and tribulations made him aware that the network of hospitals, pharmacies and doctors wasn’t cohesive.

“I myself was responsible for making sure nothing fell through the crack,” Lilienstein said about his experience as a patient. “This is an incredibly leaky system.”

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group and non-profit organization Families USA released The Young Person’s Guide to Health Insurance, a pamphlet that explains health care rights and options available under the new law.

Events on 35 college campuses across the country, including USC, were held to distribute the material.

“During the six months since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed, there has been great confusion about the provisions and their implications,” said a press release by Health Insurance Sort, an independent health insurance comparison agency.

Mike Russo, a health care policy expert and CalPIRG Health Care Reform advocate, commended the law because he said believes young people are the hardest hit by this crisis.

“The provisions that go into effect today are the first of many that will help California’s families and young people rest a bit easier about their health care,” Russo said.

Some aspects of the new law include: bans against the denial of pre-existing conditions and charging more for a woman than a man for coverage. A student can also now stay on his parents’ plan until the age of 26.

Assemblyman Mike Davis, of the 48th District which includes USC, said he is proud we have made health care as equally important as education.

“Today is probably one of the most significant days that the United States of America has experienced in decades in terms of public policy,” he said. “I stand here today proud that our country is saying health care is important.”

Even Lilienstein acknowledged that insurance companies are not all malicious.

“From the provider point of view, there is a huge well of good will to want to make the system better,” he said. “But it will be very difficult for us to pull together a cohesive statewide plan.”

Dr. Michael Cousineau, an expert in health care policy, said he was surprised that more people didn’t know the details of the law.

“it’s important for young people to get information out there,” Cousineau said. “I’m surprised to find out how many young people didn’t know about health care.”

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