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Weiner touts health reform

Queens College students who came to see U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) speak at their school Monday cheered the congressman’s support for the health care reform legislation, particularly the stipulation that young adults can remain on their parents’ policies until they turn 26.

“I feel secure now,” said Agnes Eshak, a Queens College sophomore and urban studies major. “I’m glad I don’t have to worry.”

The Democratic Student Alliance at Queens College sponsored Monday’s event, at which Weiner spoke for two hours to students about the health care legislation that was signed into law last month and overhauls the current system to provide millions of underinsured and uninsured individuals with coverage.

Weiner, who had been one of the most vocal advocates of health care reform, said he was pleased with the bill even though it did not go far enough. The Forest Hills congressman originally championed eliminating private insurance companies altogether in order to create a single-payer plan.

“I believe insurance companies play no productive role in the process,” Weiner said. “This isn’t what I would’ve done, but it’s a heck of a lot better than what we have.”

The new health care legislation has been mired in controversy and Weiner received a threatening letter about his vote for the bill that included a suspicious white powder, which turned out to be harmless, just after the legislation passed. Despite the often angry rhetoric surrounding the bill around the country, Weiner and the students said they believed in the end individuals would warm to the legislation when they saw the positive effects of the reform on their own lives.

“If you’re one of the uninsured, your life will change pretty dramatically,” Weiner said.

Nearly 4.4 million New Yorkers will receive better health insurance coverage under this legislation, including more than 700,000 young adults in the state who can remain on their parents’ policies until they turn 26 — a relief for many of those in the audience who said they often heard stories from graduates about not being able to take a desired position because the job did not offer health insurance.

“This is a good thing,” Democratic Student Alliance Chairman Andrew Demasters said of the legislation. “There are a lot of college students who don’t have health care, and we were happy to have the congressman here to get some answers about what happened in Washington and what happens now for those without health care.”

Samantha Shlimbaum, a sophomore and political science major, said being uninsured has been incredibly stressful for her and her father, who is also uninsured and faces daunting medical bills he received for the removal of a tumor several years ago.

“Being a student who’s uninsured and having a dad who’s uninsured, I’m glad to have something in the end,” Shlimbaum said.

Queens College junior Anita Sonawane was also pleased with Weiner’s support for the reform.

“If he hadn’t taken the stand that he did on this, this would’ve never gotten done,” Sonawane said of the legislation.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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