National / News / January 20, 2010

Health care reform’s uncertain future

Wednesday morning, the Massachusetts election of Republican Senator Scott Brown in place of late senator Edward Kennedy became what might be the beginning of the end for health care reform and the recent health care bill.

In order to maintain a fair vote on the health care bill, some senators such as democratic Senator Jim Webb of Virginia are saying the progress on the health care bill must stop until Brown is officially seated in Senate, and the bill must then be voted on again.

Within just one day, this health care bill, formally named the Affordable Health Care for America Act, changed from something that sounded like a done deal into something that has now been taken back to square one.

“This can potentially completely stall health reform,” said Dean of Students Xavier Romano on the issue of the Massachusetts election. “We’re back to gridlock. This is a very complicated issue.”

The bill includes such changes as increasing customer choice in the insurance industry, increasing the user-friendliness of the industry, an end to premium increases and also an end to denying care to patients based on pre-existing conditions. The bill also aimed for a better overall quality of care for all insured Americans, and to raise the number of Americans with insurance by lowering costs.

Another question of the bill, should it eventually pass, is its effects on the nation’s youth and college students. One clause in the bill states that it would extend insurance coverage to young people up through their 27th birthday under their parents’ insurance.

“I think it has an enormous implication for colleges and universities and college students,” Romano said. “We need to provide health insurance for students.” Romano stressed the importance of this bill for seniors in terms of how they think about their future.

“Health care is becoming this interesting bargaining chip for companies,” Romano said. He said he wants to see students becoming knowledgeable about health insurance become a part of the educational process at Knox. By educating students about health insurance and reading the fine print in employment contracts in their future, Romano hopes that students will remember that finding a job with health insurance is as important as finding a job at all.

“Seniors have to start looking at salaries and benefits packages more carefully,” Romano said.

“I think the health care bill the way [it was written] before wouldn’t affect me as a student,” said sophomore Erin Duff. As someone who is only covered in Washington, the state where her parents live, Duff also does not use Knox’s insurance policy.

“It does [cover me], but I can’t really afford to pay that in addition to my coverage […] It seems really silly that in a country that values education that a college student like me can’t get coverage,” Duff said. Duff has to go back to Washington every time she needs medical care.

While some think the health care bill is permanently squashed, others think there is still a possibility for it to pass.

“I think it’s too soon to say what’s going to happen with it,” said Co-Chair of Journalism David Amor. Amor also said he would have liked to see a more progressive bill that involved a single-payer system from the beginning.

The Democrats are now in the unique position of figuring out how to proceed forward with the bill, and what changes will be made to it.

“It’s not going to be a perfect bill even if everything that was politically feasible happens,” Amor said.

While Brown hopes to be officially seated in Senate in coming days, the House and Senate will surely be watched closely in coming weeks for any changes made to the health care bill and overall health care reform.

Annie Zak

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