President vows bipartisanship on health care policy
President Barack Obama addressed a joint session of Congress last night, stating he hopes to build on the parts of the current health care system that work and fix what does not, rather than try to create an entirely new system.
Obama said he is not the first president in American history to take on the task of battling with the country's health care system, noting it's been a century since Theodore Roosevelt first called for health care reform.
"Our collective failure to meet this challenge — year after year, decade after decade — has led us to a breaking point," Obama said.
There are more than 30 million Americans who cannot get health coverage, with 14,000 citizens who lose their coverage every day, he said. One in every three Americans goes without health care at some point in their lives.
School of Arts and Sciences junior Matthew Tuite said the government is already heavily involved in health care, and he would prefer if they worked slowly through the current system.
"If there's one person I wouldn't want to be right now, it's Barack Obama, because he's got his hands full and I can't help but feel for the guy," Tuite said. "But at the same time, I feel like it's a risky situation."
Obama announced his plan would meet three goals: provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance, provide insurance to those who do not have it, and slow the growth of health care costs for families, businesses and the government.
"It's a plan that incorporates ideas from senators and congressmen, from Democrats and Republicans — and yes, from some of my opponents in both the primary and general election," Obama said.
Tuite said he is wary of the plan to make health care available to all.
"You're dealing with potentially trillions of dollars," Tuite said. "I think reform is definitely needed, but I'm just not sure that they're getting to the core issues."
Obama stressed those who have health insurance through their jobs, Medicare, Medicaid, or the U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs would not be required to change the coverage they have. Under his plan, it will also be against the law for insurance companies to deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition.
Insurance companies also cannot drop coverage when an individual becomes sick, he said. A limit will be placed on how much a person can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses.
President of the University's Pharmacy Governing Council Bo Wang said expanding coverage to the uninsured is a good idea because it allows for more people to afford preventative care, hindering the need for expensive hospital visits and radical treatments.
"When uninsured people check into the emergency room, the hospitals have to absorb thousands and thousands of dollars which these people never pay, and those costs gets passed down to people like us who are insured," said Wang, a fifth-year Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy student.
Wang is unsure if Obama will be able to expand coverage without increasing the deficit.
"He talks about how he could get the money by cutting out the inefficiencies in the health care system, but I have my doubts if [they] can find that many inefficiencies in the system," he said.
University alumna Lipi Lakhani said she wishes Obama's plan was available earlier.
"It's very beneficial for people who cannot afford it," she said.
The president also ensured health coverage for Americans who lose or change their jobs, or if they start up their own small business. He spoke of creating a new insurance exchange where individuals and small businesses can shop for health insurance at competitive prices.
Obama addressed critics and the partisan debate surrounding the topic of health care reform in recent months, noting his plan will not offer coverage to those who are in the country illegally.
"I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it's better politics to kill this plan than improve it," he said.
School of Arts and Sciences first-year student Samella Reed said she is against Obama's plan.
"I think it's ridiculous that we're expected to take care of everyone else, of people who don't work, that we have to provide health care for them," she said. "I think it's our own responsibility as human beings to make money and pay for it ourselves, and I feel like it's going to cause us more actual debt than anything."
Tuite said he thinks the president's plan is a noble, but unpractical goal.
"When it comes to putting the plan to practice, is it going to work out? It's hard to say," Tuite said.
— Mary Diduch contributed to this article