by Jessica Jervis-Viville

The University of West Georgia recently hosted a debate focusing on health care reform. Sponsored by the College of Social Sciences and mediated by Director of UWG Debate Dr. Michael Hester, the event stepped away from the typical format.

University of West Georgia Debate members at an event on campus that tackled health care reform.“Traditionally, we would have an affirmative who advocated for change, and then a negative, who was against change,” explained Hester. “The reality with health care right now is that no one is satisfied with the current system.”

Attendees heard from two experts in the field of health care policy, who presented ideas that addressed issues of coverage cost, and the offered their ideas on how to make our health care system better.

The first speaker was Rita Valenti, a registered nurse who has more than 30 years of experience as a health care professional. Valenti has also has served in the Georgia House of Representatives for Dekalb County. Currently, she is a member of Healthcare-NOW, an organization fighting for national single-payer health care.

“Before the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there were about 45-50 million people in this country who were uninsured,” stated Valenti. “After the ACA, there were 30 million. Not a big victory. In fact, most of the ACA was utilized to sustain the private marketplace of commercial insurers.”

Valenti explained that there are several faults with the health care system today, including its focus on commercialism. She then detailed how a single-payer health care system would work.

“I’m for improved Medicare for all,” she said. “It’s a public national health insurance that is funded and eliminates the role commercial health care industries. The plan includes using existing health care funds to fund it, instating a progressive tax, controlling costs by the use of global budgeting, making all benefits comprehensive and negotiating of fair drug prices.

“What is it really going to take?” questioned Valenti. “I think what it’s really going to take is us. There is no way that this kind of structural change—the elimination of a huge commercial insurance industry and its role in health care—can occur in the absence of a very large, educated and active social movement.”

Carrollton native, Shelia Butler, spoke next. As president and owner of an insurance agency in Carrollton, Butler has dedicated her life to making health care better. She also created her own theory on health care, calling it Hope for Healthcare.

Butler agreed with Valenti that Medicare is on the right track.

She explained that problems with the health care system include costs pre-existing conditions.

“The goal of Hope for Healthcare is to reduce costs and increase the number of insured,” stated Butler. “We are going to separate the high risk claims. So if someone has a heart attack, they would be considered a high risk claim. Actuaries cap that at $50,000 in total billed claims.What is that going to cost? Insurance carriers in my research had a consistent number of $40 a month. Who are we going to rely on? The insurance carriers and the tax systems. This is hybrid idea of a social system that still allows freedom.”

Butler applauded the health care system for the things it has done right, but she noted that several aspects of it could be improved. She used the analogy of a paperclip to evidence her point.

“Think about the paperclip,” concluded Butler. “The man who invented the paperclip did not invent the metal he shaped it with. Today, you probably have a paperclip in your hand once a week. Health insurance is very much like that. They need to figure out a way to offer Americans more choice and have them pay a tax. We all need to be in this pool, because we are all going to need it at some point. Below that pool, you would probably see your premium somewhere with your tax around $250, and that we can afford. Herein lies hope for health care.”

Posted on November 1, 2017