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Economic, Health Experts Add To Health Care Debate

For The Heights

Published: Sunday, October 21, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01

economic

Kylie Montero / Heights Staff

“As Willy Sutton said when people asked him why he robbed banks, he replied, ‘That’s where the money is,’” said professor Joseph Quinn of the economics department. “This topic is dedicated to Willy.”

Quinn, accompanied by a panel of economic and health policy experts, spoke to a gathering of students in a “healthy debate” on the Affordable Care Act and its effects on both the political and medical climate of the U.S., particularly for college students. “Entitlements—Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—are key components of federal spending,” Quinn said. “The good news is Social Security problems are manageable. The bad news is Medicare and Medicaid problems are not.”

The speakers addressed concerns with federal expenditures, major health entitlements, and the scope of public health, but also their significance among those pursuing a health-related career.

Hosted by GlobeMed of Boston College and co-sponsored by the College Democrats, College Republicans, and Americans for Informed Democracy, last Thursday’s debate aimed to analyze the implications and future of health policy in America. The panelists examined medical care cost-inflation, rising health expenditures, and the complexity of the recently enacted Affordable Care Act.

“What is the ACA, and what is it trying to do?” asked professor Brian Galle of the BC Law School. “Do we have too much healthcare or too little?” Galle, previously an assistant professor at the Florida State University College of Law and research specialist in taxation and behavioral law and economics, tackled concerns regarding the ACA’s economic effect on government and individual spending, notably the issue of insurance companies’ regulations on consumers’ pre-existing conditions.

As the conversation shifted from the overall state of current healthcare to the specifics of the newly approved ACA, the panelists discussed the dynamic of the act itself.

“If you didn’t have to buy health insurance, would you get it?” asked Mary Ann Chirba of BC Law School. Although a smattering of hands rose sporadically to answer the question, it evoked a sort of uneasiness in the room. In evaluating the effectiveness of the act, all speakers acknowledged its daunting immensity—its fragmentation, its phased implementation, and its dense length. These aspects of the ACA were agreed to be among its most vexing aspects, but its length and complexity also reflected the ACA’s unprecedented encompassment of health-related issues.

Chirba, a former litigator who holds a J.D. from BC Law School and a Doctorate of Science in health policy & management from the Harvard School of Public Health, currently lectures on various health law issues at Harvard and Tufts Medical Schools.

“What was most profoundly troubling to me was their own lack of understanding of how healthcare works —what it means, how it’s financed, and how it’s delivered in this country,” Chirba said in response to tape recordings of the Supreme Court’s deliberation upon the influence of the ACA. Her response aptly communicated the question most face when attempting to comprehend such a colossal piece of legislation: What does it mean for me?
“This system is complex and has moving parts—it’s hard to talk about in a sound byte,” she said. “But I am distraught that the current administration has done such a poor job communicating to the American public what this [the ACA] is and the problems it’s trying to respond to.”

The debate focused heavily on the ACA’s framework. The panelists attested more to the act’s complex infrastructure and fiscal effects than to its potential political reverberations, but still accounted for the importance of careful attention to such a relevant matter.

“Though the ACA and current healthcare system is an improvement,” Quinn said, “it is far from simplified.”

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