With the debate over health care reform raging around the country and in the halls of Congress, campus organizations are mobilizing to try and bring the conversation to the Diag.

The most recent health care reform bill passed in the United States Senate on Dec. 24 of last year. A conference committee will now meet to reconcile the differences between the House of Representatives and Senate’s version of the bill. The House’s version will cost more than an estimated $1 trillion, while the Senate’s version will cost about $848 billion over the next decade.

While both bills have different plans for paying for health care coverage, a major difference is that the House bill includes a public option — requiring all Americans to have health insurance — while the Senate’s version does not.

Both bills help to finance private coverage for people of low and middle-income earnings.

The House seeks to extend health care coverage to roughly 40 million uninsured Americans by reducing the cost of health care, while the Senate’s bill expands health care coverage to approximately 31 million uninsured Americans through various subsidies and mandates. It also requires that Medicaid services are provided to 15 million additional people.

The University’s chapter of College Republicans has been bringing in experts to provide students with a conservative perspective on health care reform and explain their opposition to the legislation. Meanwhile, the University’s chapter of College Democrats has been working to garner support from students and ordinary voters for health care reform.

Almost every week since October, College Democrats has teamed with Organizing For America — the grassroots continuation of President Barack Obama’s campaign — to hold phone banks where they have called more than 6,000 Democratic supporters, encouraging them to contact local legislators to lobby in support of health care reform.

College Democrats also holds Diag Days to urge students to make phone calls to local legislators to support health care reform.

By encouraging University students to contact legislators, Samuel Marvin, chair of the University’s chapter of College Democrats, said he hopes to get young voices heard in the health care debate.

“We know that a lot of people voted in 2008. They voted for Obama, they voted for Democratic senators and they voted for Democratic congressmen because health care is an issue, and it’s something people want,” Marvin said. “We want to be as big a part of that as possible, so we can really get the student perspective as something that’s talked about and something that’s respected in the debate.”

The College Democrats have also worked closely with United States Congressman John Dingell (D–Mich.), the sponsor of the bill in the House of Representatives, who has been a strong advocate of health care reform during his 54-year career in Congress.

In an e-mail interview with The Michigan Daily yesterday, Dingell wrote that the best way for students to get involved in health care reform is simply to start speaking up.

“The message is really the same for everyone — make yourself heard,” Dingell wrote. “It could be as simple as sharing your thoughts around the dinner table when you go home, but the important thing is to keep talking.”

Marvin said he hopes to get students involved because they are one of the groups that would be most affected by the passage of health care reform. The bill would allow students to have continued coverage under their parents’ health insurance plan until age 27.

“That’s a big hurdle for a lot of people when they graduate because if they don’t have a job with good benefits, they’re out of health insurance,” Marvin said.

Despite the optimism among College Democrats and other Democrats across the nation regarding health care reform, the Republicans gained a crucial victory with the election of Republican Scott Brown as Massachusetts senator last Tuesday — a win many officials speculate could put the passing of a health care reform bill in jeopardy, at least in the near future.

Charles Bogren, co-chair of the University’s chapter of College Republicans, said the victory proves the nation is unhappy with current health care reform efforts and is ready for a change, which is why his group is working to mobilize student opposition to reform.

Bogren added that he has seen an increase in College Republican membership this year, which he attributes to students’ opposition to Obama’s work as president.

“We’ve seen a lot more members this year that have joined because of what the Obama administration has been doing so far, and it’s great to see this campaign and this special election show that a lot of people do agree with us,” Bogren said.

Last Thursday, College Republicans invited physician and University alum Robert Steele to speak about his concerns of how the health care reform bill would negatively affect the state of Michigan.

Steele has been involved in various health care debates over the years and has been a member of The Heritage Foundation — a conservative think tank that does research and analysis of public policy issues — for more than 20 years.

With his background in the medical industry and concern for the current state of health care reform in the United States, Steele is considering running against Dingell in the 2010 election.

At the College Republicans meeting, he said his idea to run for Congress stems from his concern for future generations, citing his four children and nieces and nephews, who are facing a country with an uncertain and debt-ridden future.

“As I look out at the crazy spending that’s going on right now, really the opportunities for (younger generations) are basically disappearing with every year of the exponential growth of the budget and the deficit and how the math is turning against the next generation,” Steele said. “So that’s why I wanted to get involved.”

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