By Nancy Wang
Hours before the second presidential debate and 21 days before the presidential election, Michelle Obama stopped in Chapel Hill to speak to a few thousand students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Tuesday.
Mrs. Obama touched on the President’s recent job creation record, highlighted the president’s push to increase Pell grants and other financial aid for students and then spent some time talking about effects of the health care reform.
“Barack didn’t care whether health reform was the easy thing to do…he cared that it was the right thing,” she told a capacity crowd at the Carmichael Arena on the UNC campus.
She reminded the mostly collegiate audience that under the Affordable Care Act, students can stay under their parents’ insurance until the age of 26, a provision that affects millions of students and recent graduates. Mrs. Obama also spoke about how the reform gives coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and to those who need expensive treatment, including children.
“Because your president stood up for us, insurance companies now have to cover basic preventative care, things like contraception and cancer screenings, with no out of pocket costs,” she added.
Mrs. Obama did not address the Republican candidate’s plans for the Affordable Care Act directly.
Governor Romney has stated that he will work to repeal the full legislation starting on the first day in office. According to the Romney campaign website, Governor Romney proposes to replace the Affordable Care Act with legislation that will allow each state to “craft a health care reform plan that is best for its own citizens.” The site adds that Governor Romney will limit the federal government’s role to “creating a level playing field for competition” between free markets.
During her 30-minute speech, Mrs. Obama tailored her messaged to the audience, drawing a distinction from the Romney campaign by emphasizing her husband’s support for women’s health issues.
“Believe me when I tell you that he will always have our backs ladies,” she said. “He will always fight to ensure that we as women can make our own decisions about our bodies and our health care.”
Many in attendance said this resonated with them.
“As a woman and as a woman in public health, these are things that I think about a lot and concerns me,” said Adrienne Gill, a graduate student at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. “She talked about [President Obama] being a father of two daughters and being raised by his grandmother. He has all these women in his life that are strong influences on him so when he’s fighting for American women, he’s also fighting for the women in his family, and I like that.”
“[The ACA] is a very confusing law and confusing policy, and her synthesis of the key take-away points for students was spot on,” said Adam Jutha, a UNC senior who was also in attendance.
The first lady ended the speech by reminding the students in attendance that President Obama won North Carolina 4 years ago by a margin of 5 votes per precinct. She predicted that this year’s election will be even closer and urged the student body to vote early.
Early voting starts on Thursday, October 18.