The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



Students, profs react to health care bill

Adriana Pratt | Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The House of Representatives passed a health care bill Saturday night, but when it reaches the Senate, the bill will likely take a long time to be resolved, said David Campbell, professor of political science.

“I don’t think there’s any chance the Senate will pass this bill in its current form. There will definitely be changes made,” Campbell, who specializes in American politics and public policy, said. “We’re not anywhere close to settling this.”

The bill passed with a vote of 220-215 with the support of only one Republican, U.S. Rep. Joe Cao, R-La.

Campbell said the policies surrounding health care will change slowly.

“What [this bill] represents is a classic example of the way policy changes in the United States,” Campbell said. “This is an incremental bill. It’s not a fundamental reworking health care.”

Congressman Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., of the 2nd District, which includes South Bend, voted in favor of the bill. 

“It is a bill that makes health care more affordable for families and small businesses. Additionally, no federal funds or taxpayer funds can be used for abortion,” Donnelly told The Observer Monday. “The bill also reduces the deficit by $110 billion over the next 10 years.”

Erika Hagstrom, president of the Notre Dame College Republicans, said she believes the exclusion of federal funding for abortion was one of the factors that helped the bill pass in the House.

Former president of the College Republicans Ed Yap agreed that the legislation restricting federal funding for abortion helped the bill pass.

“The one pro I see right now is that it doesn’t fund abortion with tax payer dollars, but that’s the only pro I see,” Yap said. “This bill will dramatically increase costs and further increase inefficiency.”

Christopher Rhodenbaugh, co-president of the Notre Dame College Democrats, said the Senate version of the bill might approach the abortion issue differently than the House but he said he thinks abortion is not the only life issue to protect, he said.

“The health care debate in the House was focused on abortion as the life issue, but with more than 38,000 people dying this year without health insurance, the real life issue is whether or not America can figure out a system in which everyone can be insured,” he said. “The government needs to step in when the free market doesn’t meet the needs of the population.”

Rhodenbaugh said he approved of the bill’s inclusion of the public option, a government-run health insurance program.

The inclusion of a public option with an opt-out plan, which would allow states to individually decline participation in the public option, will be a source of debate in the Senate, he said.

“The creation of the public option is essential to lowering costs because you need more competition in the system … I wish that [the bill] wouldn’t require an opt-out plan to pass in the Senate because I think that people need a viable alternative to private insurance if insurance is ever going to really reduce their prices,” Rhodenbaugh said.

Yap said he believes the House’s bill will increase the deficit because of the funding necessary for many of the programs.

“The sort of tax increases that will be necessary to fund this program will negatively impact Americans when they can least afford it,” he said. 

Rhodenbaugh said the Democrats’ health care plan would ensure health insurance for students no longer on their parents’ plan and uncovered by their employers.

Hagstrom said she would like to see health reform passed, but not in the way the House’s bill proposed.

“I definitely do think [the health care system] is a broken system. I don’t think the way to fix it, though, is to increase the size of the government,” she said.

Health care should not be a for-profit business, Rhodenbaugh said.

“I fully support the House health care bill as is and I wish it could pass through the Senate as is,” he said.