Obama set to speak at UI Field House

BY HOLLY HINES | MARCH 23, 2010 7:30 AM

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University of Iowa students say President Obama should clarify the effects of major health-care reform during his visit to the UI campus on Thursday.

Obama is set to speak at 1 p.m. in the Field House on how health-insurance changes will affect business and families, according to a White House press release.

His trip to Iowa City comes directly after the passage of the historic health-care legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives on Sunday.

Students and Iowa City residents can enter a lottery to attend the event by registering before 5 p.m. today on the White House website.

The event will echo a similar Iowa City speech in 2007, in which Obama announced his plans for health-care reform. The president is expected to sign the legislation this morning.

Many UI students and faculty members — both Republican and Democrat — said they believe Obama should describe how health-care changes will directly affect students and locals.

Health-insurance changes, such as allowing dependents to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26, may be crucial for students approaching graduation and the job market, said Sam Konchar, the co-head of the UI group Students for Branstad. Terry Branstad, a former longtime Republican governor of Iowa, is again running for the post.

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“When you get closer to the real world you have to think, ‘OK, health care. How am I going to take care of that?’ ” said Konchar, a UI senior, who supports the bill.

He thinks this mentality may be why many student Republicans might attend the event and support changes in health-care legislation regardless of their political ideologies.

Jacob Rosenberg, a co-president of the UI Democrats, agreed Obama should stress the specific details of the changes. It’s important for students and locals to understand possible benefits of the pending legislation, he said.

Rosenberg said UI Democrats members are unified in supporting the bill.

He supports changes regarding pre-existing condition stipulations and increased incentives for businesses offering health-insurance plans, he said.

UI sophomore Alex Wiese, a registered Democrat, said he’s glad the bill passed, and he wishes it had happened sooner — and with less bickering between political parties.

He agreed students need to understand how the changes will affect them specifically and said the bill will likely affect young people longer than their elders. Iowa City residents will be privileged to see the speech in person rather than on television, he said.

Wiese said in such a large bill, it’s likely anyone could find something to disagree with, but he supports the legislation overall.

“It’s about looking at the big picture,” he said.

Some will try to protest the event, said UI senior Jeff Shipley, though no concrete plans had been made Monday night.

UI political-science Associate Professor Cary Covington said some may be nervous about potential legislation changes they don’t fully understand, perhaps a reason behind Obama’s continued tour.

These people might resist making changes to their insurance plans because of worries that they could lose coverage they already had, he said.

“He’s got to find a way to get past their fear of the unknown,” he said.

Covington believes Iowa City residents predominantly support Obama’s health-care reform.

“This is a place where he can expect a good deal of enthusiasm,” Covington said.

UI spokesman Tom Moore said university officials spoke with White House officials today to arrange the event. The Field House will close early on Thursday to prepare for Obama’s visit, though officials have not yet decided the time.

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