Rep. Tom Allen '67, D-Maine, and Tarren Bragdon, director of health reform initiatives at the Maine Heritage Policy Center, agreed that there is a problem with the health care system, but differed on how to fix it during their debate on health care reform on Tuesday night.
While Allen stressed a "target approach to cover those who tend to be uninsured" and a need to share health care risk among the population, Bragdon put forward a health care system that provides multiple insurance options, is more transparent, and is less paternalistic.
The Maine Heritage Policy Center, where Bragdon works, is a "research and educational organization whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies," according to its Web site.
The debate, which took place in Daggett Lounge, was sponsored by Americans for Informed Democracy (AID), a self-described "non-partisan campus group interested in fostering open-minded discussion on political issues." About 45 students, faculty, and community members were in attendance.
"I think the message that came out of the debate was that there's a lot of agreement that there's a problem with the current healthcare system and that there's a lot of agreement on what the facts are, but what it comes down to is values," said Matt Martin '07, president of AID.
Allen and Bragdon also discussed how to best address the changing nature of the workforce in the health care system.
"People are realizing their employees shouldn't be making health care decisions for them," said Bragdon. He added that the health insurance system does not reflect an increase in frequent job turnovers and people who are self-employed.
Allen said he also believes the "goal is essentially to get to a place where the employee is not deciding on the health care for employees" but that the employee should be deciding within the company.
Allen and Bragdon also differed in their opinions of President Bush's proposed health plan. Allen said that Bush's plan attempts to reform health care "through the tax code" and pushes people toward an individual market. Bragdon said that the current health care system gives the biggest tax break to those who make the most money, and Bush's proposal attempts to "turn this on its head" by giving an equal tax break to everyone.
The speakers also responded to a question that asked if universal health care would decrease the drive to innovate.
"There needs to be a place in our health care system that drives simplicity," but "how to do that without stopping innovation needs to be in mind," Allen said.
Bragdon said in response, "America is one of the richest nations in the world and is also the most generous," adding that discouraging innovation could have a negative ripple effect around the world.
Martin said that the debate was successful for AID in its mission to provide a venue for speakers to exchange ideas.
"Besides being informed about the issue, I hope that even more than that, no matter what side of the issue [people] come down on, they have an appreciation of the values that are motivating people on the other side and understand why people might understand the issue differently," he said.