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Young Americans and the U.S. Healthcare Reform Debate

Lisa B.'s picture

Senior Seminar in Biology and Society

September 22, 2009

“In what may become the most talked-about moment of President Obama's speech to Congress on health care, Representative Joe Wilson, Republican of South Carolina, pointed his finger and shouted, “You lie!””
– David M. Herszenhorn, The New York Times
Video of “You lie! To President Obama. Rep. Joe Wilson R- (SC):”


“Health Care Reform: Questions for the President”

( )

  • You claim a new government program would create "a better range of choices, make the health care market more competitive, and keep insurance companies honest." Since when is having the government enter a market the remedy for insufficient competition? Should the government have launched its own software company to compete with Microsoft? Are there better ways to create more choices and more competition?
  • Mr. President, in your inaugural address and elsewhere, you said you are not interested in ideology, only what works. Economists Helen Levy of the University of Michigan and David Meltzer of the University of Chicago, where you used to teach, have researched what works. They conclude there is "no evidence" that universal health insurance coverage is the best way to improve public health. Before enacting universal coverage, shouldn't you spend at least some of the $1 billion you dedicated to comparative-effectiveness research to determine whether universal coverage is comparatively effective? Absent such evidence, isn't pursuing universal coverage by definition an ideological crusade?

Young adults question healthcare reform:


  • Why are so many young people not insured?
  • A “one size fits all strategy” probably does not fit America’s youth. What do we do about that?


Healthcare reform debate in the news:
“The Health Insurers Have Already Won”
“Can Obama Close the Deal on Health Care?”
Young adults and healthcare in the news:
“Get smart like that on health care: You will care when you need it and can’t get it!”
“Healthcare reform’s biggest fans: young adults”
“Commentary: Where are the young voices on health care?”




RachelBrady's picture

  We’ve all heard the


We’ve all heard the arguments regarding the failings of the American health care system and our embarrassing ranking among other industrialized countries. This was one of the main focuses of the Obama campaign and is presently a source of turmoil in political discussion. Therefore, it was a breath of fresh air when I came across the NY Times article “To Explain Longevity Gap, Look Past Health System” in last Mondays’ issue (Unfortunately I’m always about a week behind when it come to the Times). This article drew my attention to a plethora of questions that I had never thought to address before. We are constantly told our health system is insufficient and wasteful, and that, as average Americans, we do not get the coverage we need (and we do need it). Does it really mean anything to compare our system, in highly capitalized society, to the European socially based systems? How ‘real’ is this insufficiency we need to deal with? This is not to say that the US health care system doesn’t leave much to be desired, but it also may not be the evil giant we are made to believe.
The article by John Tierney takes a small step in debunking this myth. A few main points I took away from this was that there are many reasons that Americans tend to be unhealthy which are considered separately from the issue of health care. If this is the case, instead of putting all our eggs in the “healthcare reform” basket, we should focus more on the preventative measures of public health and changing social patterns.
Obviously the issues with health care aren’t the only problem. However, if we put so much stock in an arena that won’t produce much change, but only put a band-aid on the problem, we’ll end up in a worse situation then we’re in now.

Paul Grobstein's picture

Health care reform ... and broader perspectives/science?

Again some interesting intersections with earlier discussions ...

"health is priceless"

"better safe than sorry"

"should government be responsible for taking care of people or should individuals and families be responsible for taking care of themselves"?

What about taking a broader perspective, both about interdependent communities and about time?  The idea of "insurance" is to acknowledge interdependence, and share the "risk" of inevitable  uncertainty, so that everyone, to the benefit of everyone, is better able to deal with it.  Maybe we also need to learn that "health" cannot in fact be bought at any price, and that if individuals/cultures seek to do so they will inevitably bankrupt themselves in the long run?  Maybe the reason why we need "government" to step in is that we, as individuals, are more inclined to take a narrow view of our interdependences and the impacts of our behavior on others and the future?   Maybe science and science education could do a better job here too?

I do think it would be interesting to compare American culture/current health care arrangements with those of other nations/cultures in these regards.  What works for more people over longer time spans?  

ttruong's picture

Is health care a basic necessity?

There are some basic necessities that we as a culture and political system have agreed that every individual should have--food, shelter, education and protection injustice and harm. That is why we have welfare benefits, subsidized housing for low-income families, public schools, court systems, and law officers. Those necessities were once entirely up to the individual to obtain for herself and her family, but now with such programs, we are implicitly accepting that providing the bare essentials for everyone is a social responsibilty. People who went to private schools; who now send their kids to private schools still have to pay school taxes. People who never received welfare benefits still pay taxes that sponsor the program.

Now the new question is whether our society agrees that health care, along with food, shelter, education, and security, is a basic necessity that every person is entitled to. Do we agree that it is a societal responsibility to ensure that everyone get its?

Lisa B.'s picture

Reforming the medical malpractice system


One of the questions in class this Tuesday asked how medical malpractice would be part of health care reform. Below is a link to today’s “Radio Times” discussion on reforming the medical malpractice system.