Some St. Thomas students are wary of the universal health care bill that President Barack Obama is expected to sign as early as Tuesday.
House Democrats sent the legislation to Obama after a 219-212 vote Sunday. All 178 Republican lawmakers opposed the bill, as did 34 Democrats.
The bill establishes a 10-year, $938 billion program to extend coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans. The bill also outlines a plan to reduce deficits and prohibit insurance companies from charging more based on sex and denying coverage to individuals with pre-existing medical conditions.
Former U.S. Sen. David Durenberger, R-Minn., is the chair of the National Institute of Health Policy at St. Thomas. He said this bill could change health care at St. Thomas, especially in the long run when more opportunities are available to large employers and educational institutions.
“I am surprised and quite pleased by [the bill's passing],” said Durenberger, who served in the Senate from 1978 to 1995 and spent three terms as a health policy expert.
“We will have access for the first time in a long time where people can make informed choices,” he said. “The biggest thing, however, for young people and others is that we are finally on the verge of changing the cost curve in health care.”
The bill addresses the lack of universal coverage by proposing American citizens purchase mandatory insurance. The money generated by the bill would go toward subsidies, which would help families with incomes of up to $88,000 a year pay for insurance premiums.
“I’m definitely not happy they passed it,” senior Zach Neugebauer said. “I think a lot of people in this country want health care reform, but I think the bill they passed is not what the people want. I am in favor of health care reform. I just wish that this bill wouldn’t have gone through.”
Neugebauer, who owns a small business, said the new bill will take away the incentive of a good health program he offers to his employees.
“I can’t afford to pay my employees maybe what bigger businesses can, but one of my big benefits was that I had a really good health program,” he said. “Well, now that that is going to be open to everyone, that’s no longer a bargaining trick I can use to attract good employees … that takes my incentive away to provide decent health care to my employees.”
Senior Adam Johannsen, who wants to be a doctor, agreed.
“I think our system’s essentially broken as it is and we need change but I don’t know if this is the best way to go about this change.”
Freshman Austin Kammerer doesn’t support the new bill either. Taxing affects his family because they make a high enough income to be considered “wealthy.”
“The bill costs a lot of money … and the main way to pay for it is taxing,” Kammerer said. “I don’t like it because of the repercussion it’ll have on my family, and people like my family.”
Ben Katzner and Stephani Bloomquist contributed to this report.
Ben Katzner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org