The University of Michigan School of Public Health and Healthy Policy Student Association hosted a panel discussion focusing on the importance of health care policy in the context of the election year on Thursday afternoon. About 50 students and community members attended the event.

The panelists included Jonathan Cohn, senior national correspondent at HuffPost; Charles Gaba, health care analyst and founder of; and Marianne Udow-Phillips, founding executive director of the Center for Health and Research Transformation at the University. The discussion was moderated by Daniel Lee, associate chair of health management and policy.

Gaba discussed how health care policy has changed over the years with each election cycle in the context of divided opinions on the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “Obamacare,” a health care reform law enacted under former President Barack Obama’s administration. According to Gaba, the repeal of Obamacare would be inefficient.

“We are spending as much money to put in the administrative oversight of work requirements as it would cost to just cover the people who would get kicked off of the program because of it,” Gaba said.

In the case of pharmaceutical drugs, Udow-Phillips said intense pressure from the public to target individual drugs in an effort to lower prices might be more effective than legislation. She stressed the power of pharmaceutical lobbyists and their ties to both the Democratic Party and Republican Party. 

“This is not a party issue, this is an issue of how powerful that lobby is,” she said.

Gaba, however, said he believed in the power of legislation and said he is optimistic of achieving universal health care in some form in the near future. According to Gaba, perspectives on the issue have already shifted from more conservative approaches in the past. 

“The greatest success of the ACA had to do with the philosophical mentality change that no one should be denied health care, which was not the default mindset 25 years ago,” Gaba said.

Erica Hernandez, a first-year Public Health graduate student, said learning about what is happening in Congress, especially regarding drug pricing, surprised her. 

“A couple of classmates and I attended the National Health Policy Conference in D.C., and this event was a nice complement in understanding the day-to-day changes being made for health care tomorrow,” she said.

Nursing freshman Josiah Ratts, a member of the Health Policy Student Association, said he found it interesting to hear experts in the field of health care policy talk about the future of health care.

“As someone entering the health care world, I want to stay informed on what’s happening, so this was all really new to me, especially the different options that the United States is going to have since this is an election year,” Ratts said. 

Reporter Varsha Vedapudi can be reached at

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