Atlas event sparks health care debate


Atlas Week 2016 extended past the sphere of the SLU community on Tuesday night, April 6, when four debaters from an IPE Healthcare Systems class at SLU – Joseph De Lorimier, Kayla Hannon, Amelia Meigs and Bryce Hughes – faced off with graduate students from University of New England’s IPE program to debate healthcare in the United States.

The SLU Association for International Debate (SAID) in the Center for Global Citizenship plans debates for the SLU community’s participation. These debates allow students to interact with their counterparts across the nation and world through live-stream communication.

The Atlas Week debate, similar to current debates in Congress, media and courts across the country, compared two sides of a difficult ethical dilemma that the United States faces today.

In the style of parliamentary debate, the motion of the evening asserted, “a single-payer government-based health insurance system allows greater benefits for citizens than does a private-payer employer-based healthcare system.” SLU’s debaters were assigned with supporting the single-payer system, while UNE’s debaters were assigned to support a privatized healthcare system.

The SLU and UNE teams agreed that healthcare is a right, but UNE provided evidence that the current US healthcare system simply needs to be updated, and not changed to a completely new model. De Lorimier, a freshman at SLU, emphasized for his team that in “a world that is increasingly emphasizing equality for all, there is not healthcare available to everyone.”

In short, where is the “care” part of healthcare today? De Lorimier continued to argue that the Affordable Care Act should not be abolished or amended, but should be extended. Japan, Vermont, Canada and Spain were examples of healthcare systems compared to the United States’ throughout the night.

The students participating in the debate had a common background in the study of healthcare systems, thus the discussion of how to best support the welfare of healthcare systems from a business and economic perspective was central to the arguments of both sides.

SLU cited the statistic of annual healthcare spending of the United States in 2015, $3.8 trillion, to demonstrate that healthcare costs are rising out of control.

UNE’s support of the current privatization of healthcare examined the far-flung ideals of a single-payer system, such as presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ healthcare plan, and sought to predict its downfalls. Matt Devine from UNE cited an Emory University study that found a more realistic view of Bernie Sander’s healthcare plan.

The current plan, which sets taxes at 8.4 percent for healthcare for all citizens, would in reality need to set taxes near 20 percent to cover all of the funds needed.

“Medicare and Medicaid are biggest drivers of the nation’s debt,” Devine explained, “our own ‘affordable’ care act is what is killing our own economy.”

Another major point of dispute in the debate was what statistics are good representations of the US population and are comparable to Americans’ healthcare needs.

With every point UNE gave, SLU found an argument to refute it. UNE compared the US to Canada’s single-payer system to point out its downfalls, but SLU’s Meigs wanted to bring the debate within American borders.

Following suit, UNE then attempted to use the example of Vermont’s state-wide attempt at single-payer healthcare to illustrate how it would not succeed at the national level. Debater Hannon from SLU pointed out that the population of Vermont, of all states, does not represent the demographics of America.

A common misconception cleared up by Hannon was that a single-payer system is not the same as socialized healthcare, thus there is no affect on quality of care. Often, critics of a single-payer system do not actually know what it means.

Socialized healthcare involves the government managing and owning all aspects of the system, but the single-payer model simply means that healthcare is available to all citizens thanks to tax dollars that allow for government funding to provide insurance coverage.

To conclude the night, Dr. Breitbach, SLU’s Athletic Training program director, who judged the debate, acknowledged the SLU debate team for their great performance that was full of statistics and studies to back up their arguments. Meigs and Devine were also commended for receiving the top scores for their speeches.

Learning that $24,675 per year is the average annual cost that an American family spends on healthcare, this debate combined social justice and economics to consider how the United States should move forward to help its citizens obtain preventative and immediate solutions to heighten their quality of life.

SAID provided an event for Atlas Week participants to learn about the diverse entities of a healthcare system that need to be examined for it to run efficiently and concurrently maintain quality of care.

Debates allow discourse and formal presentation of differing viewpoints. In the future, the Center of Global Citizenship will continue their live-stream program with SAID to allow students and faculty to open their minds to new ideas from all across the world.

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