Far from the halls of Congress, the Drexel chapter of the American Medical Student Association met Nov. 7 in Disque Hall to debate the merits of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which is more commonly known as Obamacare.
Seating was separated between supporters and opponents of the act, and the event began with a relatively unbiased video explaining the new law, made by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that focuses on health care issues in the nation and around the world.
Though debated across all sectors of American society, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is of particular importance to premedical students, according to Sean Eden, Drexel AMSA’s treasurer and a third-year health sciences major.
“Each individual here is either interested in medicine or is going into medicine, and it is a major part of everyone’s life, and it is going to change rapidly and thus change everyone’s lives. The way people get health care, if they work in health care, the way they get paid, how many jobs are available — pretty much the entire economy — is dependent on this act,” Eden said.
Judy Pearson, Drexel AMSA’s global health chair and a sophomore biological sciences major, was also involved in running the event.
“Our Obamacare debate was really aimed to ask anyone on campus,” Pearson said. “We were just trying to get their opinions on the Affordable Care Act and the changes to come. In the end, it turned out to be more of an informational session/debate than a debate itself because we were asking people to give their two cents on how they see health care changing in our country in the future.”
The session covered topics relating to the new law such as its effect on the quality of patient care; the workloads of medical staff such as doctors and nurses; and the effect on hospitals, which are already often understaffed. Also discussed were the economic effects of the new law for hospitals and insurance companies, as well as the state of the economic bubble surrounding the health care industry.
According to Eden, who ran the event, his role was “to inform people, give both sides, give what I see in my job, give what I see in my experience, what I’ve taken from classes, and share it with the public. I also provided my opinion, which is definitely biased, but it is because I’m in the health care field. It’s because I want the best for the country.”
A particularly hotly debated topic was the balance of power between hospitals and insurance companies.
“I don’t think it’s the insurance [companies’] fault for having astronomical rates, because the hospitals negotiate with the insurance companies, so the health care industry negotiates with the insurance companies so they get the money. And most of the medical suppliers that supply the hospitals with all their supplies — their rates are ridiculous. The whole health care industry is a big bubble right now,” one student in the crowd said.
Eden, who responded that he agreed on most points but disagreed with the student’s comments about insurance companies, said, “Insurance companies have a lot more power than you think. Hospitals want to be able to take your insurance because they want to be paid. So if someone gets sick right here in Philadelphia, where are they going to go? They are going to go to either [the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia] or [the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania], and if UPenn doesn’t take my insurance, I’m still going to go there. If I get hit by a car or something, I am going right there, and I’m just not going to be able to pay. They want to take my insurance, and the insurance company has the power to say ‘I am only going to give you a thousand for that,’ and that’s what they [do] — they bargain down.”
Similarly discussed was the morality of forcing Americans to purchase health insurance, with detractors arguing that it is an infringement on their rights and supporters arguing that not having health insurance creates a burden on taxpayers when an uninsured person gets sick.
Both Eden and Pearson thought the event was a success. “On the whole, a lot of people gained more insight. I definitely can say I did the same thing. My position definitely didn’t change, though, so I am still very for [Obamacare].” Pearson said.
Regarding the event’s success, Eden said, “A lot of people came out. I feel like a lot of people learned something new. A lot of people had never heard of the act, or if they’ve heard of it, they don’t know the specifics of it.”
AMSA primarily serves as a resource for premedical students.