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23 January 2014

Former senator of Maine speaks on healthcare

Former Sen. Olympia Snowe gave the keynote address at The Business of Healthcare: Bending the Cost Curve conference, which was hosted by the Center for Health Sector Management and Policy at the Business School.

The conference aimed to discuss the relationship between health care and businesses, drawing upon Snowe’s combined 40-year experience in the United States House and Senate.

“I think [the Affordable Care Act] will have a major effect as we move forward,” said Snowe during the keynote. “How to respond to the issues that are raised by the Affordable Care Act and in so many other domains and the impact on community valuable programs, such as Medicare, that are of indisputable quality in importance to seniors here in Florida and certainly to my constituents in Maine.”

Snowe also emphasized the need for people in all spheres to work together, claiming that if legislation does not move forward as a result of stalemates and lockdowns, neither will the country.

“We can do much better … but unfortunately there is an abuse of legislative negligence, frankly, in the part of Congress,” she said. “That’s what I argued about when I was there and that contributed to my own frustrations and led to my departure thinking that I would continue to fight on the outside of the institution to derive change that I think is more indicative of America in terms of what we can accomplish as a nation.”

Student media also had an opportunity to speak to Snowe. Here are some highlights from the interview.

STUDENT MEDIA: Regarding the healthcare law, do you think that now that it is a law, … it is time for [the Republicans] … to make a more positive contribution to perfecting or improving [it] instead of trying to just scratch it off?

Olympia Snowe: I think that going forward… the Republicans are going to have to look at ways in which to work with the other side and likewise, the Democrats will have to work with the Republicans in ways in which to address … the issues that are clearly imminent.

The Miami Hurricane: Do you think we will be able to get to that stage where there is a lot of compromise between both parties in the future?

OS: I am certainly hoping so, that is what I’m investing my time and energy in right now, with young people in college campuses, as well as with organizations, and groups of all political persuasions. [I’m trying to] encourage them to understand what is at stake and what we can do to change specifically … I think that both [political parties] need to appreciate that too … they have an inordinate and singular responsibility to make sure that they perform on behalf of the country. It is about the interest of the country.

SM: Do you believe the coverage of our demographic, 18-34, plays a huge role in the success of the law, despite the administration not seeing the numbers they had hope for in the enrollment? Why do you think that is?

OS: Well, it certainly does play a critical role … because of the question of how you spread the risk among those who are in the exchanges [which] will ultimately dictate cost. One of the issues that I wanted to address before the enactment of the Affordable Care Act was … how affordable would these plans be at the outset and [how] some assumptions would have had to be made to understand exactly what the cost would be of the “young invincible.”

It is important for young people to have a health plan, so the administration is going to have to figure out ways to get the information out there about what those plans look like, what the benefits are, and again what the costs are.

SM: More and more campaigns are being led by the younger generations against Obamacare. Just last November here at the University we had a tailgate at one of the football games co-sponsored by Opt-Out and it sent out a message nationally…How would you respond to this since young people are essential to the success of Obamacare?

OS: Time will tell ultimately how this is implemented. That is my concern from the onset … it is a question of whether or not it will be affordable … I understand the concerns of the young people about it. You have to had both sides have a stake in the process to give it the grounding and the support that it requires for the long term … You can expect major problems to arise with major initiatives … Obviously I encourage young people to get insurance. I don’t disagree with the goal of insuring the uninsured; it is a question of how you do it.

 

Media’s questions have been edited for clarity. Sen. Snowe’s responses have not been altered.