Story by Tiffany Martinez
Video by Tiffany Smith
Citizens of Lawton joined CU students and faculty in the Center of Emerging Technology and Entrepreneurial Studies last Friday in hopes of learning more about the recent health care legislation, the Patient Protecting and Affordable Care Act.
The public forum began at 10 a.m. and featured seven panelists from different areas of Oklahoma. The keynote speakers of the panel were State Senator Constance N. Johnson, a Democrat from District 48, and Matt Pinell, Chair of the Oklahoma State Republican Party.
Dr. Syed Ahmed, the Director of the Business Research Center and a professor of Economics, was the man behind the scenes of this public forum, as well as many other forums conducted on campus.
“This is a very important and controversial issue that our country is facing right now,” Dr. Ahmed said. “I wanted to make sure we had a balance — to make sure the issue could be discussed in more of a bipartisan manner — so I chose the speakers carefully. It’s important that people hear both sides.”
Dr. Ahmed said that he had spent the previous two months planning out the event.[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/50064268[/vimeo]
“We targeted senators,” Dr. Ahmed said. “We contacted both parties, asked who would be the best speaker on health care issues and took it from there.”
Sen. Johnson embraced PPACA, an act some might be more familiar with as “Obamacare.”
“This policy is alive and real and the law of the land at this time,” Sen. Johnson said. “It has a great focus on the funding of programs to educate Americans on preventable diseases, and Americans need information and education ahead of time to prevent these illnesses.”
Sen. Johnson also said that PPACA will help cut down the cost of prescriptions for elderly patients, as well as allow people with preexisting conditions to have healthcare coverage.
Chairman Matt Pinell, however, stood firm in the belief that the costs of PPACA will outweigh its benefits.
“The people need to do research,” Chairman Pinell said. “Obamacare may sound great, but people need to look at the numbers. There are a lot of numbers there, and they matter.”
While Chairman Pinell did not deny the point that healthcare needed to be reformed in America, he did continuously express his feelings of disappointment with the PPACA plan.
“I do not think this was an evil plan,” Chairman Pinell said, “but make no mistake, this is a bad plan,”
Aside from the Democratic and Republican keynote speakers, opinions differed among the panel. The other five individuals that made up the rest of the panel, in descending speaking order, included: Wallace Collins, Chair of the Oklahoma State Democratic Party; Jonathan Small, Fiscal Policy Director, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs; Kate Richey, Policy Analyst, Oklahoma Policy Institute; Steve Hyde, CEO of Southwestern Medical Center; and Toby Pedford, CEO of Legacy Wealth Strategies Group.
Issues that intertwined with the national healthcare reform, such as the effects that the PPACA may have on medical professionals and the idea that requiring individuals to acquire health insurance has been deemed unconstitutional, were also touched on.
When the question-and-answer session began after each panelist spoke, many members of the audience asked questions and voiced opinions. A former U.S. Marine approached the panelist bench at one point during the session, handing out flyers with an image of his dead wife and her initials. He then spoke in favor of PPACA, explaining how he lost his wife to cancer because their insurance company denied his wife coverage after she was diagnosed with the illness. The man raised his voice toward individuals on the panel who opposed PPACA, and accused Chairman Pinell of “selling his soul to the devil.” He said that if a healthcare plan such as the PPACA would have existed beforehand, his spouse might still have been alive.
Sixty-seven-year-old, Barbara Harrison of Lawton, also vocalized her beliefs concerning the piece of legislation.
“Since this law directly affects me, it has become very important to me. I have read the Affordable Care Act and I understand that it is not the end-all for healthcare,” Harrison said. “It is quite similar to the Constitution to me. These are both living, breathing documents — and so they can and have to change better fit our country and our people. I know this bill is not perfect, but it is definitely a step in the right direction.”
Harrison said she is passionate about PPACA because elderly and retired citizens need a healthcare plan such as this.
“It affects me — and a lot of older Americans who are the only bread-winners in their family — personally,” said Harrison. “My healthcare may cost me about the same as it did when I worked, but my income is not the same. That is a huge factor.”
The forum’s unified theme, though, was the encouragement of registering to vote and exercising that right to vote.
“This isn’t about politics,” Sen. Johnson said. “This is about you — what matters to you, what affects you and what you are willing to do about it.”