Health care at center of election

Kara Haight

With a potential change in presidency, a change in policies, programs and plans follows. One of the most anticipated topics in the upcoming election is American health care and where the programs and systems are headed.

“That’s the million dollar question,” said Stephen Borders of the School of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration. While no one can 100 percent predict an outcome, some future plans can be interpreted based on past statements and initiatives, Borders said.

“(If President Obama won the election) we would probably see his signature programs of affordable care, and the plan for health care for those who do not have it in 2014,” Borders said.

One of the president’s plans is to expand the Medicare program to ensure low income and previously uninsured individuals have available medical care.

“The expansion of health care (and) the requirements of health insurance are the major plans,” Borders said, adding that the penalties associated with the program wouldn’t likely start until a couple years down the road.

On the other side of the coin, Borders said Romney has publicly come out against the affordable care program and has talked about repealing it.

“It’s law so it would take both chambers to repeal,” Borders said. “He can’t single-handedly repeal the program.”

Even if the program is eliminated, plans to replace it are not absolute.

“We’ve been told that the Affordable Care Act will be repealed and replaced but ‘replaced with what?’ is often contested,” said Michael Williams, a GVSU senior and public administration major.

Williams said a proposed program from Republicans “is converting Medicare to a block grant system that could substantially decrease enrollment, prohibiting access to millions who need health care across the country.”

Without the option of repeal, Borders estimated that starving the funding and weakening the program to force a re-working of the system would be an option.

“There’s no way of knowing what he (and the party) might do,” Borders said. “He may not enforce the penalties and cause the program to collapse. There are ways around enforcement.”

While the issues and future of Medicare and health programs in America may be the last thing on GVSU students’ minds, the effects hit close to home.

“Health care is one of the biggest reasons why students are being asked to shoulder a larger portion of their education,” Borders said. “Everyone wants to know why tuition is rising, and (it’s because) more state budget is being consumed by health care.”

While the decisions about the Affordable Care Act may have a huge impact on the U.S., GVSU programs that center around health care may not be as affected.

“The act does not specifically ask professionals to do anything,” said Roy Olsson, dean of the College of Health Professions. “(The change will come) with the amount of people professionals will be providing service to.”

Olsson said the College of Health Professions has anticipated an expansion in programs and is helping students through grants and other programs.

“With the ACA there will be a big bubble of people who will need health care, but the classes won’t change, only the volume,” Olsson said.

Although health care professionals won’t feel the effects of a policy change, other areas of the system may see alterations.

“As someone who studies Public Health, the election result will allow me to gauge whether I’ll have a promising future in the field or not,” Williams said. “Part of the ACA is a provision addressing the needs and importance of public health interventions in communities across the nation. This added component of the ACA is promising to my future as a public health professional, hands down … It’s hard to sit down and think whether or not I’ll have a promising career in public health come November sixth.”

The topic of health care and the current U.S. health insurance programs will surely be an area of concern, no matter who wins, Borders said. “The problems will still exist and the discussion isn’t going away no matter who’s in office.”

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