CostRX: UPI Interview With Kucinich on Health Reform

Promises, Promises in Healthcare Reform

UHCEF Article of Interest

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Laura Gilcrest
United Press International (click here for link to original article)
27 April 2007

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 26 (UPI) — In the second part of an interview with United Press International, Democratic congressman and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich of Ohio claims he is the only contender for the Democratic ticket with a plan for truly “universal” healthcare, because the plans of his rivals still allow private health insurance companies to run the show.

Q: Your legislation, Medicare for All, outlines a plan for a national, single-payer healthcare system. Senator Hillary Clinton’s plan for national healthcare more than a decade ago failed. What was Clinton’s biggest mistake in attempting national healthcare reform?

A: It wasn’t her mistake, it was the media’s mistake, because the impression was she was working (toward) the system I’m talking about. Not a chance.

She has the right rhetoric, she knows the issues, but her plan in 1993 was for for-profit insurance, it wasn’t single-payer. It was for competition between insurance companies, like competition between private oil companies, or private electric companies, or banks. It wasn’t about a single-payer system. And, or course, she’s smart enough to promote the confusion about it. But anybody who bothers to do a little bit of research would see that the plan was for for-profit insurance.

Q: Is Senator John Edwards, in your view, doing the same with his plan?

A: Senator Edwards has a plan to keep the insurance companies in charge. (Edwards and Clinton) both say they’re for universal healthcare, but what they’re talking about is continuing the for-profit insurance companies’ domination of the healthcare system, without any control of cost; it’s all about for-profit. People will have to pay more — it locks people into paying for (substandard) coverage, in Edwards’ case, because it would be illegal to be uninsured.

Q: A recent survey showed that most Americans still favor getting their healthcare through their employers. How do you respond to those findings?

A: The fact is that the linking of insurance to jobs leaves 46 million people without any health insurance and 50 million underinsured. It leaves half the bankruptcies in America tied to doctor bills; three-quarters of them are families who are working.

So check this out: It means even if you have a job, the (insurance) premiums are going up and the co-pays and deductibles can crush you — that’s if you have a job. If you lose your job, you lose your health insurance.

What are we doing here? It’s like the American people are slaves to private health-insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies, and you know what? When I’m elected, I’m breaking the shackles.

Q: What do you think scares people about a national healthcare plan like the one described in your bill, and what would you say to calm their fears?

A: First of all, you have to start with this: We have public education in America, we have a Social Security program, there are already millions of Americans who are participating in Medicare. Government builds highways and bridges and roads and water systems and sewer systems and airports.

Q: And some argue inefficiently so.

A: Then hire you own fire department, your personal fire department, hire you own personal police department, hire your own street repair crew.

Q: But doesn’t the trend toward privatization of government programs, such as health plans’ participation in Medicare’s Part D, show some disillusionment with government-run programs?

A: That trend has been fueled by abject corruption. Our government’s been bought and sold by private interests who get public officials to go along with it. And I know this because (while serving as mayor of Cleveland) I was responsible for saving a municipal electric system. People saved hundreds of millions of dollars on their electric bills, just in (Cleveland) as a result of my decision.

Privatization of Social Security would have left tens of millions of American retirees out of luck when the market went down a couple of months ago. You’re looking at the whole idea of the public sphere versus private profits. There’s got to be some things that we recognize as public rights, and I’m saying healthcare is a public right.

The debate in 2008 is going to be over exactly what you’ve identified: Should we have a Medicare for All system or should we have a for-profit insurance system that the government continues to subsidize. That’s going to be the debate. I’m the only one running for president who has introduced legislation for this, who has gone around the country promoting it even before I was a presidential candidate, who is ready to challenge these for-profit insurance companies.

Senators Clinton and Edwards (may call their plans) universal healthcare, but it’s for-profit healthcare, it’s not single-payer. If you’re talking about polls, you’ll see that there’s a majority of Americans who say that the federal government should guarantee health insurance to every American.

Q: How would you respond to those who feel the government should not pay for healthcare services for people who are not in the country legally?

A: People who are insured have trouble paying their medical bills … there’s a lot of shifting of costs to patients, you have caps on benefits. Their concerns are the concerns that I’m addressing, and if some other group is going to achieve some temporary benefit, that’s one thing, but to deny 100 million Americans a chance for economic survival because there might be a few people who come across the border to try to get benefits. … You don’t deny all Americans a chance for better healthcare because we have an immigration problem. That, to me, would be the height of irresponsibility.

(My Medicare for All plan) would be available to everyone and then, obviously, we have to fix our immigration laws. Immigration does need to be addressed. But you do not sacrifice the healthcare needs of the rest of the nation because the government has a flawed immigration policy.

My plan is not just better, it is the only plan that works for people, because it assumes that healthcare is a right, not a privilege. On each and every count, this plan is superior, and I say that by the time we get to the early primaries and caucuses, my candidacy is going to give people a chance to vote on this plan, and if they want to break the control that the insurance companies have, they’ll support my efforts.
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