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Health care debate gets middle school take

POSTED: April 24, 2014 12:55 a.m.

West Hall Middle School eighth-grade student Odalis Yebra responds to a judge's question as her team presents its possible health care solution.

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It’s been an issue thoroughly hashed out by grown-ups.

On Wednesday, a group of West Hall Middle School students voiced their thoughts and opinions about health care reform in America.

And their ideas, presented as part of a class assignment, varied widely, from supporting the hotly contested Affordable Care Act’s requirement that all Americans have insurance coverage to an outright repeal.

The eighth-graders in Rachel Allison’s health care science class spoke to fellow students and a pair of judges, Assistant Principal Rodney Stephens and fellow health care science teacher Casey Fleury, who grilled the presenters with questions.

Students, working as teams, talked about such things as Americans having a “Smart Card” that would keep track of their medical histories and expenses, with one group suggesting families receive $200 per month, or up to $2,400 per year, to hedge against costs.

Some talked about the government funding initiatives by raising taxes and cutting spending, and some pushed expanding Medicaid and giving the poorest residents equal access to quality care.

“Even though some people would be unhappy by raising taxes,” one student said in a presentation, “it would be worth it toward the end because you’re getting rid of the wait times, making treatments cheap ... so in the end, they’d be saving money and they’d have full satisfaction.”

The judges saved their questions for the end of the presentations.

“You say we’re going to give health care to 53 million people who don’t visit the doctor, so how are we going to eliminate waiting lists?” Fleury asked.

“We’re going to have more facilities opened,” one of the students said.

“Who pays for those facilities?” Stephens asked.

“I guess our government would,” the student said.

The assignment sprang out of a study by Allison’s students of U.S. health care delivery.

Students “have realized that it is difficult for many people to get health care in a consistent and preventive sort of way,” Allison said. “These students have thought long and hard about the issues, they have selected problems they think are most significant and suggested solutions to those.”

She said the students’ perspectives vary based on personal background and family experiences.

“Some of my classes are almost exclusively Latino and their perspective of health care in America differs greatly from Caucasian students’ whose parents are both employed and have health insurance,” said Allison, also a registered nurse.

“We’re all the same people,” said one of the students, Sally Terrones. “We all need health care. We’re talking about someone’s life here — it doesn’t matter where you come from.”

Jessica Ortiz said the key thing that struck her during her work on the project was the need to help the poor and uninsured.

“We are wasting so much money on other things that are unnecessary,” she said. “Our biggest concern is helping those people bankrupted by medical bills or (who) don’t have enough money to help themselves (get care).”

Another student, Aaron Hubbard, said he went into the project thinking America led the world in health care.

“What we found out ... is that it’s not really the best,” he said. “If we could adapt other countries’ health care — take their ideas and such — we could make our health care way better than it is.”


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