Supporters of President Obama’s health care law celebrate outside the Supreme Court Thursday after the court’s ruling was announced.
All eyes were on the Supreme Court Thursday as the nation’s highest court delivered its ruling to uphold President Obama’s landmark health care law, arguing that the law’s requirement for most Americans to acquire health insurance is constitutional under Congress’ ability to levy taxes. Chief Justice John Roberts was the surprise deciding factor in the decisive 5-4 decision, joining with the Court’s four liberal justices to uphold the law.
Many college students may be breathing a sigh of relief as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is cemented as the law of the land due to the provision that allows young people to stay covered under their parents’ insurance until the age of 26.
Still, the PPACA is far from a perfect law and raises some concerns among the nation’s future medical professionals.
“Sorry we kept you waiting”
“I think [universal health care] has been a long time coming and is excellent for Americans who haven’t been previously insured,” said Peter Vitale, a junior and biochemistry major at Iona College planning to attend medical school. “My biggest concern, however, is the number of health care professionals and if we’re going to sacrifice the quality of health care in order to provide universal health care.”
Vitale said he worries that the health care system may become too stressed and that the notorious long lines and long waits that plague the health care system in America’s neighbor to the north, Canada, may become a characteristic of the United States’ system as well.
Yet, it doesn’t have to be.
Countries such as France and Japan also provide universal health care, but without the long wait commonly associated with such a system. In fact, France is ranked by the World Health Organization as the country providing the top health care overall where the United States prior to the 2010 PPACA ranked at 37.
So, perhaps the government will look comparatively in order to remedy kinks in the law and to prevent the newly created system from being plagued with one of Canada’s biggest health care system pitfalls.
What about primary care physicians?
The new law also creates some anxiety regarding the future of primary care physicians. With a prospective 32 million uninsured people about to receive health care insurance, the need for primary care physicians is sure to increase to accommodate the millions of new patients and to avoid Vitale’s concern of not enough available care care for the increased number.
Nousin Haque, a senior at Iona College also majoring in biochemistry and entering medical school after graduation, explains that after completing medical school, students are left with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt and one of the ways to remedy that debt is to specialize in a field. Specialized physicians receive a higher salary than primary care physicians, enticing more and more indebted medical students to choose a specialty field rather than practice as a primary care physician.
“If you’re going to have millions of people newly insured under Obamacare, it is imperative to give more people incentives to become a primary care physician so that you have enough doctors for the newly insured to visit,” Haque said.
But the PPACA does not forget about primary care physicians and their importance in a universal health care system.
Through National Health Services Corps Students-to-Service Loan Repayment Program, medical students who agree to work as primary care physicians in struggling communities are eligible to receive up to $120,000 in order to repay outstanding loans.
Yet, for Haque more still needs to be done to help primary care physicians. At the end of the day, the fear of increasing debt and the desire for a better salary will likely drive students away from primary care and into specialization even at a time when primary care is needed most.
It’s the right thing to do
All in all, however, the passage of the PPACA is lauded by the students as a giant step forward for the American people.
“From a citizen’s perspective I feel that everyone should have universal health care — it’s beneficial to everyone and it has worked in other places like Canada, Europe and other countries that we have tried to emanate,” said Garry Lachhar, a sophomore at Stony Brook University studying biochemistry, pre-medicine.
Vitale and Haque both said they concur with Lachhar’s attitudes toward universal health care, agreeing with President Obama that the “decision was a victory for people all over this country.”
For the students, the issue of health care goes beyond politics and addresses what longtime Washington Post correspondent T.R. Reid calls “the moral question” regarding health care in his best-selling book The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care.
In his book ,Reid argues that the issue of providing universal health care comes down to one simple question: “Should we guarantee medical treatment to everyone who needs it?”
It is not a question loaded with political jargon, but rather a simple question regarding whether it is morally acceptable not to provide health care to everyone who needs it and whether politicization of such an important issue may cloud the nation’s judgment ethically.
Haque resides in Reid’s camp regarding health care and politics.
“For me, I really do want to help the people,” she said. “I really don’t care if a Democrat passes universal health care or a Republican does — I just think it’s important that we give everyone access to health care.”
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