Gator in D.C. talks healthcare, politics
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Senior business administration student Marc Wirtz has been named SF State's third Panetta Congressional Internship recipient, and is now working as an intern in Washington, D.C. The program allows 25-year-old Wirtz to spend his fall semester working in the office of Dan Lungren, R-Sacramento, and to focus on the issue of health care, a very important topic to him. Wirtz took time out of his busy schedule to talk with the [X]press about the health care debate and his experience in Washington thus far.

[X]: How does it feel to be awarded this opportunity?

MW: It was absolutely amazing. I was taken back. I applied for it last year and was, I believe, the runner-up from what they told me, but it ended up working out because I ended up getting the Willie L. Brown Leadership Internship, which actually opened the door for me to get the Panetta internship this year, so it was quite an amazing opportunity. I was very surprised and excited for it.

[X]: What have you learned so far while working in our nation's capital?

MW: That it is organized chaos. And it is so true. But it's been amazing because what I'm doing specifically, besides answering phone calls and taking care of the mail, is I have been privileged enough to work with our legislative aid who works on health care, because that's what my focus and my passion is, and it's been a great experience. I've been able to see one of the biggest debates on health care reform up close and personal.

[X]: With regards to affecting policy change in D.C., can you tell readers what works and what doesn't?

MW: Definitely letting your congressman know your position. I don't think people are doing it as much as they should. Most people these days are sending e-mails, and I think at least for our office that e-mails get way more attention than phone calls. In my opinion, phone calls only go so far because obviously you're not going to get to the congressman. Nobody gets a phone call and goes 'Hey, you want to talk to the congressman?' It just doesn't happen. So, I'd say to make things happen, you need a lot of people and they need to come through e-mail over phone calls.

[X]: Which interests do you see flexing their muscles most in Washington over the health care issue?

MW: Originally, there's been some play with the health insurance companies that I have seen. Granted, I only see a small level from where I am, but from what I understood they were working on all health insurance companies getting rid of 'pre-existing conditions' and if that's the case, that will give a lot more Americans the opportunity to get health insurance. Now I believe that they have pulled back from that position, so I think what I'm seeing are health insurance companies kind of playing the game, trying to get what they want, but again, I can't be sure on that.

[X]: In your experience, what dynamics tie the hands of legislators while reform is stifled?

MW: The biggest one is, and it makes as much sense once you see it, but it's the way they draw district lines. The way they've done that, specifically in California, but throughout the nation, they draw district lines to make areas that are more conservative only conservative, and they draw lines the same way for more liberal or democratic areas as well. So what that does is in D.C. it makes it so you cannot compromise. It makes it so republicans are being ultra-conservative, and democrats are being super-liberal, and that's why health care has gotten so ugly. We haven't had consensus on things in so long. When I was in Monterey, where the Panetta Institute was established, they had specialists come to speak to us and one of them described D.C. as poison right now, and I think that's a very true statement because there's no consensus, it's just an ugly fight.

[X]: What aspect of the health care debate interests you the most?

MW: Definitely the public option. I plan on getting into health care, and I'm applying for my master's degree in nursing right now with a focus on hospital administration, and I want to be a hospital administrator, so I'm very curious to see what comes from this public option that they're looking at. I'm worried about salary caps for hospital administrators, doctors and nurses because I don't feel that fits the market capitalism theory that the United States was founded on. Although I don't think health care should be free, because I think when things are free they get taken advantage of, I think it should be affordable so everybody has the opportunity for it. We definitely need reform in that sense. From being here I've been motivated to maybe get involved with politics at a future point, even at the federal level and work more on health care, because this isn't going to go away.

[X]: Is there anything else you'd like to share with your fellow Gators about your experience?

MW: It's been great. I'm loving it. Just last week I got to shake the hand of the Dalai Lama. He was in town, so that was fun. Other than that, get involved. I think that's the biggest thing. All the calls we're getting in our office come form the baby boomer, senior generation and I don't think our generation is getting involved so I think we need to see colleges and their students get involved and write their congressman and let them know what they're thinking.

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