College Republicans and Democrats Debate Health Care

Story posted January 30, 2018 in CommRadio, News by Maddie Biertempfel

The Penn State College Republicans and College Democrats debated the American health care system to a packed room in the Willard Building on Monday night.

Each side delved into issues regarding the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid in response to five questions presented by members of the University Park Undergraduate Association’s Governmental Affairs Committee. About 70 students filled the room, and State College Mayor Don Hahn made an appearance.

Reagan McCarthy, Riley Compton and Will McCarter represented the Republicans; Johnna Purcell, Jacob Klipstein and Josh Weisman, the Democrats.

Starting with the sustainability of Medicare and Medicaid, the Republicans argued that the entitlement programs, while well-intentioned, are poorly executed.

“We want free market solutions,” Compton (sophomore - political science and economics) said. “But we most importantly want Americans to have access to health care.”

Compton extolled the “private option” model that operates in Arkansas, where the state received federal approval to use Medicaid funds to buy private health plans.

In rebuttal, Klipstein (freshman - political science) said citizens of states with more Medicaid funding have longer life expectancies and better quality health care. He recommended maintaining tax increases for the top 5 percent.

“We need our most well off in society to continue helping our most vulnerable,” Klipstein said. “We’re not stealing their money, we’re asking them to help us out.”

Regarding the recent rollback of employer-mandated birth control coverage, Purcell argued there were two main problems with the change. She said the Trump administration made an unfair association between risky sexual behavior and contraception accessibility, and that without requiring employers pay for birth control, they simply won’t do it.

But McCarthy (junior - political science and broadcast journalism) said the mandate’s infringement upon religious liberty makes it unconstitutional.

“Contraception is not a human right,” McCarthy said. “The policy completely prioritizes the convenience of female employees over the religious liberty of any employer or corporation.”

When the topic of universal health care arose, Weisman (sophomore - risk management) spoke favorably of a single-payer system, quoting Bernie Sanders.

In response, Compton said a single-payer system results in price fixing, which leads to shortages of services. In the case of health care, he said, this could mean a canceled surgery, or placement on a lengthy waiting list to receive necessary care.

“I’d rather get care on a big bill than die on a waiting list,” Compton said.

To round out the debate, each side was asked about the prospect of bipartisan compromise. Both parties agreed on the underlying mission: to provide quality healthcare to all Americans.

“We have the same goals, with very different conceptions of those goals,” Purcell said.
Patrick Ganley, activism chair for the College Republicans, said he thought the debate was very well done.

“I think it was substantive. The Democrats made a lot of good points, but I think overall, the Republicans stayed on point, and they made the argument about how to lower costs,” Ganley (senior - education) said.


Maddie Biertempfel is a sophomore majoring in Broadcast Journalism and Political Science. To contact her, email