The Daily Gamecock

Health professionals debate Obamacare in panel

Speakers highlight need for reform, improved care


Before the presidential candidates squared off on domestic issues Wednesday night, health care reform was already taking a spotlight on campus, as students gathered to hear a panel of experts share their views on U.S. health care reform and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

Reasons for reform and an emphasis on preventative care were among the major topics of discussion at the “Dissecting Obamacare” Health Panel featuring USC public health professor Dr. Mindi Spencer, Senior Vice President of Palmetto Health Dr. Ellis Knight and President of the South Carolina Medical Association Todd Atwater.

The panelists shared their unique perspectives on the state of American health care — Knight from the position of the health care provider, Spencer from a public health focus and Atwater from a legal angle.

“Nothing makes me more angry than to hear the perennial rant on television by politicians about ‘We have the greatest health care system in the world. We don’t,’” Knight said. “The truth of the matter is, we pretty much suck.”

Each speaker highlighted particular reasons for health care reform need, among which were an abundance of uninsured Americans, high expenditures on health care, poor value of care and inadequate access to care. The panel also explained some of the logistics of PPACA bill — which went into effect in March 2010 and will begin enacting major provisions in 2014 — and its relevance to students and to South Carolina health care. 

Spencer stressed the impact of the bill on preventative care, which, she said, is “a good investment.” Thirty-eight percent of all U.S. deaths, she said, are attributable to four preventable behaviors: tobacco use, diet, physical inactivity and alcohol incidents. She noted the importance of community involvement in preventative behaviors and care.

“You’re not going to improve health within a community unless you have community partners, community buy-in,” Spencer said.

Hosted by the Roosevelt Institute and the Honors Pre-Medical Community, the panel’s goals were to promote general knowledge of the much-debated PPACA bill and to inspire student involvement in this and other issues as the November general election approaches, according to fourth-year biology student Taylor Kirton, president of the Honors Pre-Medical Community.

Kirton said she expects the upcoming political debates to bring the health care issue back to light in voters’ minds.

“(M)ost people don’t really know the ins and outs (of the PPACA bill),” Kirton said. “We have the power to make decisions about how we feel about this bill as individuals ... We need to be informed voters.”

Third-year biology student Brittany Adcock said she attended in order to increase her knowledge of the bill with the goal of developing an informed opinion on the issues at hand.

“I feel like, especially with the campaign going on, people are only seeing the ‘shoot-em-down’ ads or they are really just going off what their parents think ... and they really don’t know the facts,” Adcock said.  “I definitely think there needs to be more information available to students about the subject because I feel like they’re not informed enough.”