Professors debate contentious health care plans

On Wednesday, the Philosophy Club sponsored a debate on the current healthcare discussion that has dominated political coverage since the summer.

The panel consisted of professors Chris Annala of the School of Business, George Briggs of the biology department, Anne Eisenberg of the sociology department and Theodore Everett of the philosophy department.

Annala, the first presenter, said that the two basic issues he wished to address were "relieving health care costs" and "providing for the uninsured." He also cited improvements in the country's ability to provide care as a worthy justification for higher healthcare costs.

"If we want that improvement, we have to pay for it," Annala said. "You can't get it for free." He argued that increasing the number of insured individuals would not decrease costs, and said he would like to see more realistic costs and premiums so that overconsumption of services is reduced.

Next, Eisenberg told an anecdote about her own premature birth. She said that had her uninsured parents not had access to a public hospital, she might have died at birth. She also discussed her experiences working as both a caregiver and, later, as an administrator in a hospital setting. "Profit makes care-giving institutions think about money first, rather than people," she concluded.

Briggs brought several perspectives to the table. As an advisor for students seeking admission to medical school, he attempted to dispel the idea that doctors are overpaid or under-qualified. As the grandson of an insurance salesman, he discussed the unfair vilification of insurance companies. As a biologist, he touched on the science of healthcare, and as a libertarian, he stated several reasons for personally opposing the involvement of government in healthcare.

"I sincerely, absolutely believe that health care would become worse if the government became involved; it's not because I don't have compassion," Briggs said.

Finally, Everett opened with the statement, "We should find some way of guaranteeing a high level of health care to everyone, but not through federal involvement."

He noted that the federal government currently helps out those without basic necessities such as food, housing and education through subsidies and vouchers without direct involvement in the systems, and said that healthcare should be dealt with in a similar manner. Everett argued that the best method of helping those who cannot afford healthcare would be to give them assistance in participating in existing healthcare plans.

The debate is particularly relevant in light of current healthcare bills ready for discussion in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The bill in the House could come to the floor as early as Friday. The proposed legislation would not guarantee universal coverage, but would provide for an estimated 96 percent of Americans. There are also provisions for a public option and a mandate on individuals to be insured.

The price of the proposed plan is approximately $1 trillion, but the Congressional Budget Office has said that the legislation will pay for itself and reduce the federal deficit. Since President Barack Obama has made healthcare reform an initiative of his first year in the White House, many consider the bill's success a gauge of his effectiveness as president.