"Never discuss politics or religion in mixed company,” or so the saying goes—and, perhaps, health care reform should be added to the list.
In a spirited discussion, students in the Community College of Aurora’s “Current Political Issues” course engaged guest lecturer Cody Belzley on the “good, the bad, and the ugly” of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as health care reform, or by its nickname, Obamacare. PPACA was signed into law by President Barack Obama in March 2010 to expand health care eligibility and benefits to American citizens. The legislation has been has been vigorously supported and opposed by numerous individuals and organizations during its development and eventual passage, and it continues to be the focus of controversy and the target of lawsuits.
Belzley, vice president of public affairs for the Colorado Children’s Campaign, framed her lecture within the historic context of health policy in the United States. She offered her belief that the debate on the government’s role in health care began in 1912, when, during his campaign for the presidency on the Progressive Party ticket, Theodore Roosevelt promised national health insurance (and lost the race). Belzley said she finds it curious that political sentiment surrounding “Obamacare” is that the legislation was rushed through, when, in fact, “we’ve been discussing health care for about 100 years,” she said.
Belzley reported that the World Health Organization ranks the United States 37th out of 191 countries for health care quality but spends the most as a percentage of the country’s GDP, or gross domestic product. It is estimated that 30 percent of spending on health care in the United States is wasted, she said, meaning that if the money was not spent, it would not affect health care outcomes.
She reminded the class about the power of perception. “We are all influenced by our personal experiences with health care, and we can’t easily check that at the door when we discuss health care policy,” she said. A lively dialogue followed, and opinions on the current state of health care in America were as varied as the ages and backgrounds of the students in the room. Each student’s opinion was carefully considered and everyone was respectful of the variety of positions held.
Belzley summarized the session with this assessment: 30 years from now, the country will be having these same debates about cost, quality, and access to health care. “Thanks to our founding fathers, we are not a system that moves quickly,” she explained. “We are often gridlocked over important issues, and we take small steps to move forward.”
Belzley’s presentation is one in a series offered through the “Current Political Issues” course. These talks by well-known policy leaders from throughout the metro region are free and open to the public. The course’s instructor is Dr. Matt Gianneschi, CCA vice president for student services and enrollment management.
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