BY BETHANY BIRON AND MIKE MERAR
Daily Staff Reporters
Published March 22, 2010
Correction Appended: An earlier version of this story misquoted Brenden Campbell. He said legislation was "the best and most progressive legislation in the past forty years."
The long-debated national health care legislation, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives late Sunday evening, will introduce sweeping changes to America’s health care system, some of which could spell big benefits for students, the bill’s supporters say.
The new system requires employers to offer affordable health insurance to their employees or face fines until they do so. Moreover, insurance carriers will no longer be able to deny potential customers coverage because of a pre-existing condition. In addition, it will allow students to remain on their parents’ health insurance plans until they turn 26.
Along with health care legislation, the House approved a bill Sunday night that will remove private banks as intermediaries in the federal student loan process. Rather than going to banks to obtain a federal student loan, families will now go to the financial aid office of their school. The money saved from the elimination of fees paid to banks will be used toward increasing the Pell grant, which gives money directly to students.
U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D–Mich.), said in an interview yesterday that the passage of the bill was the culmination of more than 55 years of work he’s done on the health care issue.
“We’ve carried out an important responsibility to the American people,” he said. “We’ve seen to it that the American people can now be comfortable that their insurance for health care purposes means something.”
Dingell added the legislation will greatly benefit students because it will allow them to stay on their parents health insurance plans for longer than was the case before.
“Students are going to come out very well,” Dingell said in the interview. “First of all, they’re going to be able to remain on their parents’ health insurance policies until they reach their 26th birthday.”
Dingell said the reform will reduce costs for students, among other benefits.
Dingell said many provisions of the bill, which he described as “enormously complex,” will hopefully take effect by 2014.
General Surgery Prof. John Birkmeyer wrote in an e-mail interview that despite the complexity of the bill, he felt “relief” at the announcement that it passed.
“The Senate bill (approved by the House Sunday night) has plenty of warts, but the status quo — 50 million uninsured and unsustainable growth in health care costs — is much worse,” Birkmeyer wrote.
Brendan Campbell, chair of the University’s chapter of College Democrats, echoed Birkmeyer’s sentiments, saying he was “ecstatic” that the bill passed.
“I’m proud to say that we’ve accomplished some of the best and most progressive legislation in the past forty years since the Great Society and we’ve improved the lives of million and millions of Americans,” Campbell said.
Campbell added that the bill will benefit students in other ways besides offering them increased coverage.
“The best part of this bill is not the cost savings that will go into student aid, but rather that these savings will be reinvested into students through Pell Grants,” he said.
Charles Bogren, chairman of the University’s chapter of College Republicans, wrote in an e-mail interview that he was displeased the legislation passed and that he staunchly opposes it.
“My immediate reaction to the passing of the Senate bill was that it was shameful and disgraceful,” Bogren wrote. “This bill will do far more harm than good; it will drive premiums up, decrease consumer choices in their medical professionals as well as treatment options, and place yet another millstone around the neck of the American taxpayer.”
Bogren wrote that he doesn’t think the bill will help students because it will create debt that they will have to deal with in the future.
“Conservative estimates are that this will run up the deficit by another half a trillion dollars” he wrote. “Our generation should not be forced to pay for the sins of our fathers.”
“It will be many years before we see any increased coverage for the average American, but in the next fiscal year increased tax rates will be immediate,” Bogren added.
Other students expressed support for the legislation.
School of Art & Design senior Amariah Stepter said that though she is unsure of how other students are reacting to the legislation, she is in support of it.
“I thought it was a good move and think it will be a positive move for our country,” she said.
LSA senior Coertney Vanderhill said she’s also in support of the bill.
“I think we’re the only industrialized country that doesn’t have (national health care) yet, and for me that doesn’t make sense that we don’t,” she said.
LSA junior Kunal Varna said though the bill could have negative consequences he is in support of it overall.
“Initially I think it’s going to be hard to adjust,” he said. “There might be some negative implications, but in the long run it should help the nation as a whole.”