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Penn Democrats and College Republicans debate health care reform and other issues in Huntsman 270. Credit: Maya Spitzer

In an effort to educate students on current political issues, representatives of the Penn Democrats and College Republicans debated last night about healthcare reform and the war in Afghanistan.

Each side had four participants who spent the majority of time discussing the pros and cons of a public insurance option.

“Eighty percent of Americans are happy with their health insurance,” said College Republicans vice chairman and Engineering sophomore Peter Terpeluk, citing a September Gallup poll. “You have to address the point, ‘Is the cost worth it?’ Economically, I don’t think it makes any sense.”

The College Republicans claimed that a public option would result in the rationing of health care.

Penn Dems Political Director College senior Adrienne Lee Benson, who herself was uninsured for several months, responded that healthcare rationing already exists.

“It’s just done by insurance companies by denial of care and underinsurance,” she said. “The public option is a moderate compromise between socialized medicine and the extreme libertarian concept.”

After a brief question-and-answer session with the audience, the topic of the debate was switched to President Barack Obama’s hesitation to raise troop levels in Afghanistan.

“The problem is that we need legitimacy and stability in the Afghan elections,” said freshman Stephen Fritz, a Penn Dems member. “What the President is doing right now is weighing all the options.”

College Republicans chairman and Wharton senior Peter Devine criticized Obama’s “policy of inaction.”

The debate was moderated by College junior Jared Fries, vice president of the nonpartisan voter mobilization group Penn Leads the Vote and debate team member.

“I was focused on being fair and giving equal time to both sides,” he said.

However, one representative of the College Republicans in the debate said Fries gave too much time to the Democrats.

“He didn’t give us a fair shot,” said the representative, who requested not to be named. “We also wanted to address the economy, but spent too much time on health care.”

Penn Dems and College Republicans debate every semester, covering a variety of topics.

The groups incorporated this year’s debate into the Dems’ Health Care Week.

“Our mission was to educate [those in] the Penn community who wanted to learn about health care,” Penn Dems President, College junior and former Daily Pennsylvanian advertising representative Jordan Levine said. “Hopefully we’ve increased the salience of it on campus.”

Almost 50 students attended the event, many of whom were members of Penn Dems.

“It was very informative,” said College sophomore Steven Vaughn-Lewis, a member of the Penn Dems. “I learned a lot I didn’t know before from both sides of the debate.”

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