The University of Chicago News Office
Feb. 14, 2003 Press Contact: Sabrina Miller
(773) 702-4195

University of Chicago medical students bring health care debate to campus:

Should the United States provide universal health care for its citizens under a single-payer national health system?

Event organizers:

Samuel Seiden
(773) 255-6284

Manu Goyal
(773) 580-5437

Rohini Jonnalagadda
(773) 562-2013


Experts in law and medicine will debate “Health Care for All” on February 20 at The University of Chicago. The debate will begin at 6:00pm at the University of Chicago, Donnelly Biological Sciences Learning Center, 924 East 57th street, Room 109. Refreshments will be provided starting at 5:30pm.

The debate will showcase Professor Richard Epstein, Professor of Law at the University of Chicago and Dr. Quentin Young, the National Coordinator for Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP). Moderating the debate will be Gretchen Helfrich, host of Odyssey, the National Public Radio nationally syndicated cultural affairs and public policy program produced at WBEZ Chicago. According to event co-organizer, Rohini Jonnalagadda, “This forum is a fantastic opportunity to present a debate between speakers with broad ideological differences–Epstein with his libertarian philosophy and Young’s commitment to nationalizing health care.”

Richard Epstein – Epstein is the James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago, where he has taught since 1972. He has served as a Senior Fellow of the Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at the University of Chicago Pritzker Medical School, since 1983. At present he is a director of the John M. Olin Program in Law and Economics. Among his writings on health law is the book Mortal Peril:  Our Inalienable Right to Health Care?

Quentin Young – Dr. Young is the National Coordinator of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), an organization of more than 10,000 physicians who support single payer national health insurance. Dr. Young has been a leader in public health policy and medical and social justice issues. In 1998, he had the special distinction of serving as President of the American Public Health Association.  Dr. Young is also a practicing internist in Hyde Park, a Clinical Professor of Preventive Medicine and Community Health at the University of Illinois Medical Center.

Gretchen Helfrich – Helfrich hosts Odyssey, Chicago Public Radio's talk show which features cultural and public affairs programming. Gretchen was the producer of the station's international affairs program, Worldview, in 1994. In addition, she has anchored several primary and general election night broadcasts. Gretchen grew up in Southern California and holds a bachelor's degree from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.

Students attending the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine are aiming to find solutions to the current U.S. health care system crisis. Three second-year medical students at the University, Manu Goyal, Rohini Jonnalagadda, and Samuel Seiden, voiced their concern to classmates and a group formed to organize the debate.

“Access to affordable health care has to be a priority focus on our domestic agenda” according to Seiden. “Every other industrialized western country has health care covering all of their citizens and at a fraction of the per capita cost the U.S currently spends on health care. This debate is an opportunity to critically analyze the Single-Payer proposal.”

The debate will include some of the following topics for discussion:

  • 42 million people are currently uninsured and that number continues to increase as incremental programs fail.

  • The latest figures released in January show 14.1% of GDP going to health care, the highest in history.

  • The rising costs of health care are due to excessive administrative costs in the current private medical insurance system, estimated at 20-30 cents of every health care dollar.

  • The publicly administered Medicare system averages administrative costs of 3%, whereas private insurance companies average overhead of 15-33%.

  • Americans’ high expectations for health care, especially at the end of life, and resistance to rationing or market incentives when considering health care.

  • Many health care professionals attribute part of the problem to the high cost of malpractice suits, and the corresponding malpractice insurance premiums, which is now over $100,000 per year for some specialties.

  • What would Single-Payer mean for the future role of physicians in The United States?

Says Goyal, “Health care in the U.S. is complicated. We can no longer base our national policies simply on anecdotes and politics. What we need is critical debate from those who make it their life’s work to wade through the complexities of American health care.”

Sponsors of the event include: The University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine and Biological Sciences Division; The University of Chicago Student Government; The University of Chicago Community Service Center; The Human Rights Program at the Center for International Studies; Students for Global Public Health; and Physicians for a National Health Program.

The University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine was founded in 1927 and graduates 105 physicians annually. Fundamental educational philosophies include excellence in teaching quality and compassionate patient care, the scientific basis of medicine, and community and social involvement.

For more information about the universal health care debate, visit or contact the event organizers.
Last modified at 01:55 PM CST on Friday, September 12, 2003.

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