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Rep. Dennis Kucinich Tackles Healthcare

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Posted on Nov 28, 2006
Kucinich
AP Photo / Robert F. Bukaty

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) gestures during a speech to the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004.

By Joshua Scheer

Rep. Dennis Kucinich speaks with Truthdig contributor Joshua Scheer* about the state of healthcare in America, his bill with Rep. John Conyers to provide universal coverage and why progress is inevitable.

Edited Transcript:

Truthdig:

What kind of healthcare [do] congressmen get—what kind of healthcare do you have?

Kucinich:

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Well, we pay for our healthcare.  I mean, our healthcare is deducted from our salary.  You know, we can opt for what kind of plan we want.  The more comprehensive coverage you have, the more you pay.  The solution to the nation’s healthcare problem is not to deny members of Congress healthcare coverage.  It’s to make sure every American has the access to quality healthcare, and the only way to do that is for Congress to pass a bill that would provide for universal not-for-profit healthcare for all Americans.  There’s a bill called “Medicare for all,” and this bill in this current Congress is HR 676—the Conyers/Kucinich bill.

Truthdig:

That bill—it’s Conyers and you?  Do you think it’s going to pass?

Kucinich:

There are 75 members of Congress signed on in support of the bill.  We recognize that there are 46 million Americans who don’t have health insurance, and there are another 50 million Americans who are under-insured; that the cost of healthcare has gone out of the reach of a large number of Americans, and so there’s only one real solution, and that is to make healthcare not-for-profit.  I mean healthcare should be established as a basic right in a democratic society.  Every industrialized democracy has healthcare for its people. ... You know, when I traveled the country as a candidate for president, the two issues that came up most consistently were healthcare and the integrity of the election process.  Healthcare is one issue that unites Americans across party lines, across income lines.  Because every person realizes that a single illness in a family can wipe out that family financially.  So healthcare and the accessibility and affordability of healthcare is central to the government’s responsibility to provide—to promote the general welfare. 

When you look at the fact that there are 46 million Americans without health insurance—another 50 million under-insured—when you see that businesses are cutting back sharply on healthcare benefits—at the bargaining table, labor is faced with giving up their hard-fought healthcare benefits—when you see that trade, meaning in this case jobs that move out of our country—there is an acceleration of jobs going out of the country because workers are not paid benefits in a number of countries where the jobs move to.  Chief among those benefits is healthcare.  Healthcare is central—it’s a central question— and it defines who we are as a nation and what we can become as a nation.  We are already paying for a universal system of care, we’re just not getting it. ... Close to $2 trillion a year is spent for healthcare in America, but one out of every four dollars goes for the activities of the for-profit system: corporate profits, executive salaries, advertising, marketing, the cost of paperwork—anywhere from 15 to 30 percent, as compared to Medicare’s 3 percent.  And so a for-profit healthcare system is crushing everyone, except the insurance companies.  It’s crushing workers, who may actually be working 40 hours a week and not have healthcare coverage.  It’s crushing businesses, particularly small businesses, who are finding that they cannot afford healthcare for their employees.  It’s causing major manufacturers to renege on commitments they made to their workers years ago and to retirees years ago for healthcare. 

The high cost of healthcare and healthcare for profit has transformed American society and has been a powerful engine for accelerating the wealth of the nation upwards.  And so what I’ve advocated with John Conyers is HR 676: universal single-payer not-for-profit healthcare, which provides that everyone’s covered for everything. And we’re already paying for a universal standard of care—we’re just not getting it because—if you took that almost $500 billion a year and put it into healthcare in the form of a universal system, we would have enough money for all basic medical care, plus dental care, vision care, mental healthcare, long-term care, prescription drugs and even broader coverage.  We’re already paying for this.  We’re not getting it.  We need to have the end of healthcare for profit in the United States and the beginning of a healthcare system which helps those who don’t work or can’t work, which helps workers, small businesses, manufacturers. This could be—this single move towards healthcare for all can bring about a dramatic shift in the American economy and in the lives of every man, woman and child in the United States.

Truthdig:

If I’m interested in the plan and I want to know more and make my voice heard, how do you suggest going about that?

Kucinich:

You have to start by talking to people in your family and your neighbors, because everybody is affected by this.  I mean,  this is a moral question.  Martin Luther King says of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.  And when you have—I think it was 82 million people spent part of 2002 and 2003 without health insurance, and when you understand that the uninsured include—half of the uninsured are people who are employed ... certainly people have to talk to their congressman, but already there are over 14,000 physicians for national healthcare who are advocating this plan.  The American manufacturers are starting to take a more careful look at how healthcare can benefit their industries. When you see that Canada, for example, has long maintained a competitive advantage in various manufacturing sectors vis-a-vis the United States because they provide healthcare.  And all of Europe has had a competitive advantage against the United States because they provide healthcare.  When you understand that, for example, you remember General Motors?  They had a big, big debate a few years ago about their healthcare costs—they spent $5 billion in 2003 for healthcare—that was like $1,200 per car—and when you see how GM has gotten into financial trouble, one of the reasons is their healthcare costs. And all these Americans ... don’t have health insurance because their employer either dropped their coverage or people can’t afford the insurance. 

And you look at medical bankruptcies, Josh, there are millions of bankruptcies in America now and about half of them are related to the cost of medical care.  And people are filing bankruptcy—I think it was in 2001, there was a study that three-quarters of those who filed [for] medical bankruptcy had health insurance at the start of—at the onset of the illness.  This is a huge problem for middle-class families because people are postponing needed care, they’re having trouble paying their bills, they aren’t getting the drugs they need, the collection agencies are on top of people. ... A lack of access to healthcare is one of the reasons why the United States has had higher infant mortality rates as compared to Germany and Australia, Norway, Sweden and Canada. You know, lower life expectancy, less continuity of care. 

People are having difficulty getting needed care.  I mean, think about this: Life expectancy in Sweden and Italy and Canada and France and Germany and the UK—it’s all higher than the U.S.  And this despite the fact that we spend over $2 trillion a year.  So ... throughout my district, I’ve been holding town hall meetings on the issue of healthcare and discussing this with people, my constituents. ... As a candidate, I was promoting this, and we had some real challenges that have to be overcome in the Congress in order to make it possible for people to get the care that they need. ... This really is the single most important economic issue confronting the United States right now.

Truthdig:

You’ve said the money’s already there ... there’s not going to be a problem paying for this ....

Kucinich:

Well, yes. Now here, a woman whose name is Dr. Marcia Angell ... a few years ago ... when Conyers and I introduced our bill, she said that—and this is a woman who was the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine—she said that she’d estimate that no more than 50 cents of the healthcare dollar actually reaches the providers.  So if you’re talking about a little more than $2 trillion, where does the rest of the money go?  And where it goes is to, you know, you look at some of the executive compensation where people running these healthcare companies are making tens of millions of dollars a year; when you look at the fraud that’s involved in the system, the drug company profits, how people are paying so much more for drugs than they should be—look at the crooked deal that resulted in ... Medicare being strapped with a law that forces them to pay whatever the drug companies ask for drugs ... the Medicare Part D drug plan forbids the government from negotiating lower prices with the drug companies, and it banned the Canadian import of drugs, and it paid only 30% of that first $5,100—the so-called “doughnut hole”—and forced coverage through private plans. 

It resulted in windfalls, subsidies and profits for private plans and managers and—I mean, there are so many things wrong with it, but [the worst] part of it was it guaranteed $150 billion in drug company profits.  And, of course, it was not a surprise that the drug companies turned around and rewarded Congress handsomely with big contributions during election cycles.  And, you know, any time you’re talking about a for-profit system, the costs are higher. There’s fraud, there’s higher overhead, there’s fewer nurses, the quality is worse, death rates are higher. You get more citations on poor quality and, as far as the doctors—more and more doctors are favoring the approach that I’m talking about because they don’t want the insurance companies to be making the decisions—about the doctors, about the tests, about procedure, about length of stay, about medication—and what we’ve seen in healthcare has been a tremendous increase in administrators as opposed to physicians over a period of about 20 years.  So, I see this change coming.  It is going to happen, because there is an awareness that government has failed the American people in this regard, and it’s an economic issue, it’s a moral issue and it’s central to who we are as a nation.

Truthdig:

So for-profit medical companies have as much bureaucracy as ... the government-run [program]?

Kucinich:

It’s not just the bureaucracy, Josh, it’s the amount of profits they make with their product.  The VA negotiates a price for drugs with the drug companies.  Under the Conyers/Kucinich bill, the government can negotiate for all the people in this country with the drug companies and benefit from high volume.  I mean, if the drug companies don’t want to negotiate, the government could start making its own generic brands if it wants to, but we shouldn’t have to do that.  The drug companies already negotiate with the VA, but in Medicare Part D, in order to protect over $100 million in drug company profits, the administration saw to it that cost controls were taken off.  So you have to go back to—what is it the people want with healthcare?  They want guaranteed access.  They want freedom of choice as far as their doctor.  They want high quality and affordability.  They want to be able to trust the system.  And that’s not what they’re getting right now.  So what I’ve been doing—John Conyers is the senior member whose name is first on the bill, but John and I have been working together and I’ve been organizing members of Congress on this, to get people to be involved in supporting this universal single-payer not-for-profit healthcare system, and this is really an idea whose time has come and one for which there’s broad support. 

I’ve got one more thing to say about it, if I may, and that is—I went to the Democratic platform committee in 2000 with Lila Garrett, Tom Hayden [and Gloria Allred] where I offered a presentation that the Democratic Party take a strong stand on universal healthcare.  My proposal, unfortunately, was rejected.  I brought the same proposal embodied in the Conyers/Kucinich bill to the Democratic platform committee in 2004.  Once again, the plan was rejected.  Both times the plan was rejected because of the unfortunate influence of corporate interests upon the Democratic Party hierarchy.  And so it is urgent that the American people are aware that our political system has frustrated the emergence of healthcare for all because of the tremendous influence which the insurance companies and the drug companies have on our political process.  It doesn’t mean that this influence is fatal, but people need to know that it exists.

Truthdig:

You’ve just said it’s not fatal, but do you think this is going to hinder the Conyers/Kucinich plan this time?  Or do you think you have enough support now that the Democrats are in power and they won on these kinds of issues like healthcare, the minimum wage and the war?

Kucinich:

I see healthcare as being the defining domestic issue in 2008.  It transcends every other issue.  It relates to quality of life, it relates to economic productivity, it relates to wages, it relates to trade, it relates to our ability to have a government we can call our own.  It relates to the foundational purposes of the United States of America as outlined in the very preamble to the Constitution.  This really is a great cause that we should all be involved in.  And so my commitment on this has been very strong, and I think that when you go out across the country as I have, and you hear from the people and you see the amount of economic jeopardy which exists because of a lack of—either a lack of access to or affordability—then you know that one must take a stand, that healthcare is a right, and that the current healthcare system is not adequate, and that we have to fulfill the purpose of our nation to promote the general welfare.



*Interviewer Scheer worked as an entry-level staffer on Kucinich’s state Senate campaign and was later a summer associate in his congressional office. In this weekly interview series, Rep. Kucinich gives his take on the goings-on in Congress in the wake of the Democrats’ victory.


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By Eleanore Kjellberg, December 9, 2006 at 5:29 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“IN THE MEAN TIME IATROGENIC CAUSES OF DEATH ARE THE LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH IN THE U.S., MORE THAN HEART ATTACKS, MORE THAN STROKES, MORE THAN CANCER.”

Lefty—that was an excellent bit of info—you’re right it is not a “healthcare” system it is “sick-care” monopoly, organized by a group of greedy sociopaths. 

http://www.alternative-doctor.com/specials/Dr_ Barbara_Starfield.htm

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By Spinoza, December 9, 2006 at 12:16 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Bert does have a bit of a point from a capitalist ideologue point of view. What he says is true in theory.  If we removed all aspects of monopoly power including government licensing of doctors and the requirement of prescriptions for drugs—- All monopoly eliminated including the monopoly power of drug companies and patents which are government regulated—-Strict Adam Smith competition—-the price of health care should fall dramatically.

But Bert it will never happen, it has never happened that capitalists would allow a non monopoly situation to last for long.  As Marx correctly said: “Capitalism kills competition”. It always leads to monopoly.  THEREFORE, it is always more sensible to regulate industry in the best interests of the people in general. Our so called healthcare industry is a ripoff and a disaster. It needs to be changed and changed dramatically.

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By Lefty, December 8, 2006 at 8:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS “HEALTHCARE” IN THE U.S.  IT DOES NOT EXIST.  THERE’S NOT ENOUGH PROFIT IN IT.  WHAT WE HAVE IS PATHOLOGY/ALLOPATHIC BASED DISEASE CARE.  AND THE SYSTEM HAS BEEN VERY CAREFULLY CONSTRUCTED THAT WAY FOR THE PAST 100 YEARS - BY THE GOD DAMNED, STINKING DRUG INDUSTRY.  THERE’S A LOT OF MONEY IN TREATING PEOPLE WHO ARE SICK AND DYING AND DESPERATE.  THE LAW OF SUPPLY AND DEMAND FLY OUT THE WINDOW WHEN YOU ARE SICK AND DYING.  THERE IS NO “FREE MARKET” TO SOMEONE WHO IS SICK AND DYING.  THERE’S ALSO A LOT OF PROFIT IN “MANAGING” DISEASE.  THERE ISN’T NEARLY AS MUCH PROFIT IN MAINTAINING HEALTH OR CURING DISEASE.  DOCTORS ARE NOTHING MORE THAN DRUG DISPENSING GUMBALL MACHINES IN LABCOATS.  THEY ARE TRAINED TO MATCH DRUGS WITH SYMPTOMS.  THEY ARE TOOLS OF THE DRUG INDUSTRY, NOTHING MORE.

IN THE MEAN TIME IATROGENIC CAUSES OF DEATH ARE THE LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH IN THE U.S., MORE THAN HEART ATTACKS, MORE THAN STROKES, MORE THAN CANCER.

SORRY! NO!  THIS IS NOT “HEALTHCARE.”

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By Eleanore Kjellberg, December 7, 2006 at 5:24 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Forty-seven million people have no healthcare;  the rest have abysmal coverage—emergency rooms are used as primary care facilities; catastrophic or chronic illness are certain causes of indigence and yet there is no outrage only malaise.

How did we become so apathetic—-are we all breathing in Prozac rather than air—-what will it take to energize a complacent population.

Charles Rangel could be right, maybe we need to reinstate the draft—-that might wake-up some sleeping folks—it was certainly a wake-up call during the Vietnam War.

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By Bert, December 6, 2006 at 4:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

They should call it ‘healthscam’, healthcare is big business, and by threatening to cut off granny’s medications, the industries that provide ‘healthcare’(think about that word, IS there such a thing?) know they can squeeze the public for another 20 bucks. Make that 20 BILLION, with a ‘B’. Big ‘B’.

I think the best favor that Kuchinich could do would be to vote in favor of cutting off ALL government monies for healthcare. That way, the price would drop to what the market will bear, meaning the rest of us could afford to go to a clinic without having to rely on a government subsidy etc.

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By eleanore kjellberg, December 5, 2006 at 6:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Take your vitamins and exercise—because the U.S. government will never socialize medicine. There is more profit to be made in legal pharmaceuticals, than there is in heroine.

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By jon b, December 5, 2006 at 3:30 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

John Sadler writes “Earnest defenders of socailized health care point out that privatization has time and again been shown to result in downgrading the public system”

Absolutely. Private companies want earnings and annual earnings growth. This means your dollar is getting less and less in each succeeding year.
If company wants 10% earnings growth, then your dollar is getting 10% less this year, another 10% next year, another 10%.........

Healthcare isn’t an issue anywhere except US. Go figure.

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By albert, December 5, 2006 at 7:51 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

No PJ, you’re missing the point. There is no such thing as a federal program that is not MOSTLY fraud. They are simply incapable of running anything, except the country into the ground. Why do you think ER’s can’t turn people away? Party politicians’ vote buying schemes such as medicaid. They dangle federal funds (that don’t exist), and require “guidelines” for the acceptance of those funds. It is high time for the states to take back the country, but that won’t happen because the same treasonous parties control them as well. Every federal program in the last 100 years has been nothing but a vote buying scheme. Nothing more and nothing less. Unless the people demand that the feds GO AWAY and leave the services totally with the states, this country will fail.

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By john sadler, December 4, 2006 at 3:18 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I have worked as a surgeon all my life in a country ( presently Canada ) having government run health care .
The way the wind seems to be blowing the USA corporate-profit-driven system , far from being replaced , is infecting other jurisdictions such as Canada .
The lackeys for the would-be profiteers have been supplied with all the right sounding arguments for privatizing health care - ” freedom of choice ” for example .
Earnest defenders of socailized health care point out that privatization has time and again been shown to result in downgrading the public system - but such voices are frighteningly weak .

Not that socialized systems are necessarily perfect . Waste is a problem ( mostly arising from medico-legal fear and ass-covering ). But even wasteful socialized systems are cheaper than for profit ones apparently .
Anyway , Good Luck Kucinich , and Good Luck Americans.

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By Spinoza, December 2, 2006 at 9:30 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Another thing, nowhere in the Constitution does it say that the USA has to have a capitalist economic system or capitalist ethics.

This is a big lie perpetrated by the right wingers.

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By Matt, December 1, 2006 at 4:07 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

> No matter how wealthy you are when a pandemic comes to our shores, your wealth won’t protect you from the millions of people who have no health care.

That sums it up perfectly for me.  If we’re not providing healthcare to everyone, then we might as well not bother.  People who are very well-off imagine that their healthcare coverage will save them and so inveigh against universal not-for-profit healthcare….but they fail to note that the people who clean their offices, their houses, who are working in the menial jobs at the restaurants and malls and such, don’t have healthcare. If the people without healthcare get sick, they often have to continue working to pay the bills irrespective of the risk to themselves and others….and that will do NOTHING but cause a pandemic to flare out of control.

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By Richard, November 30, 2006 at 9:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

After being employed for over 31 years by a steel company that was bought out by U.S. Steel, I was let go with 1 week of severance pay, 1 week of health insurance, and life insurance which was cancelled. I had 3 minor children whom I was raising. Forth two days later U.S. Steel was kind enough to offer me COBRA insurance if I had $3,800.00 up front to pay for the previous month of health insurance, the present month of insurance, plus the next two months. I had to let my insurance expire. Now at 53 years of age I have to pay over $850.00 a month to have health insurance with no vision, no dental, and no prescription coverage. I forgot to mention that I do get a monthly pension of $535.00. I now have heart disease, I’m border line diabetic, etc.I recently finished my degree with some student loan money. Has anyone tried to get a job even with a college education in Michigan lately? The jobs I do find have no insurance benefits. I DO NOT want a handout. However I think it is so shameful most politicians in our country have forgotten about people like myself.(Believe me there are tens of thousands like me.) This country is long overdue for universal health for EVERYONE! Thank you Congressman Kucinich for stepping to the plate for us. It is nice to see some of the politicians are public servants who are suppose to serve the people, not themselves.

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By Eleanore Kjellberg, November 30, 2006 at 4:50 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Don’t you get it—-if you don’t have insurance, or if your insurance runs out, you can go to hell!  You see—-poor, uninsured, or chronically ill folks, have a problem but it’s their problem.  Our government collects taxes, but not to help you—-because that’s called socialism—a complete contradiction to our corporate privatized health system.

You need some skill-—but if you’re clever, perhaps, you will successfully manipulate, and get through the maze of multiple healthcare machinations, and if you do, that’s great, and if don’t it’s too bad.  Take personal responsibility—-if you’re a loser—-it’s your fault!

Have you ever wondered how much Cheney’s heart operations cost U.S. taxpayers? I guess, in his case socialized medicine is ok.

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By Lisa, November 30, 2006 at 1:35 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Lynn, you’re wrong.

“universal health care is not a right—individuals have forgotten how to take charge of their health—big brother does not provide without consequence”

Universal health care SHOULD be a right. Individuals who take chare of their health fall victim to diseases like cancer and diabetes every day. And while big brother does not provide without consequence, there are MASSIVE consequences for NOT PROVIDING. We’re all paying them now.

I’ll bet you claim to be a Christian, too.

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By Gordon, November 30, 2006 at 12:52 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Albert,

There’s nothing unconstitutional about single payer health care. Where does it state in the constitution that the federal government can’t guarantee every American has health insurance??

The fact is simple: The so-called “free market” has failed to provide health insurance to every citizen of this country. This costs our society billions of dollars every year. Worse, the number of uninsured keeps growing every year. If we were to leave it up to the “free market” to provide health insurance to all and get government out of providing health insurance all together (eliminate medicare, SS, etc…) you’d have a social calamity on a scale like you’ve never seen before in this country. The role of government is to improve the lives of the people it represents. Government must be involved in providing health insurance for every citizen. Health Care is not a priviledge. It is a human need. Capitalism is only interested in maximizing profits and could care less at how many can or can’t afford health insurance. That’s why HMO’s have proliferated and why so many Americans are unhappy with HMO’s.  Insurance companies will continue to fight single payer health care as will the AMA. It’s up to the people to get to their representatives and keep pressing the cause of single payer health care. The quality of health care will continue to plummet in the United States if the government does not step in to stop it.

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By Doug Tarnopol, November 30, 2006 at 11:29 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Keep up the talks with Kucinich! He’s one of the few nationally recognized Dems worth a damn.

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By DAG, November 30, 2006 at 8:44 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As someone who has worked in the healthcare field for 20 years, I can assure you that the system is broken. I’ll spare you all of the stories and long explanations, but the net result is that the system is now set up to deliver the least care for the most profit all day, all the time. The only ones making out are at the top of the food chain.

With the exception of M.D.‘s, the people actually responsible for taking care of you are suffering from an understaffed work environment for pay that has not kept up with inflation (read lower real wages). Meanwhile the administrators, insurance companies, drug reps, equipment and drug suppliers are all doing well.

It’s galling to see the overhead (administrative) grow every year. It’s more galling to see the pay of the overhead grow while the pay for the professional staff (Pharmacists, Radiologic Technologists, Dietitians, Therapists & Lab Techs) stagnate year after year. Every time someone leaves, the position is ‘evaluated’ and often downgraded or reduced to part time. Those left behind have to take care of more people with less and less. They are getting burned out, not to mention physically worn out.

I don’t do what I do for money (I’d be somewhere else)- I do it because I like it and like to help people. However, if the system is not fixed I will be forced to look elsewhere. Each year it gets harder and harder to do right by the patients in a humane and proper manner. If I wanted to work on an assembly line I would have skipped college and went to work at Toyota. BTW- the pay and benefits would be better.

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By bc42, November 29, 2006 at 11:17 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

You wonder why in all the things a hospital charges for, a hundred times or more expensive than it should be, no one ever seams to know what those overcharges are covering for in unseen hospital expense.  Clearly they don’t have trouble getting aspirin wholesale for less than a nickel a pill.  Rent a room for a day with a little plumbing, proximity to the facilities of health, aids making $10 an hour, a nurse $30 or 40 and overworked, all for one or two thousand a day.  They’re covering for something else like research, equipment, or legal expenses, undisclosed profit which nobody can seam to explain clear enough to mean anything.  I would like to hear what these European countries do that’s different and change our laws. Cut out the subsidy that laws are complicit with or subservient to the lobby, in the status quo system.

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By Susan Craze, November 29, 2006 at 8:25 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Everyone in the US is one “pre-existing condition” one job loss, one accident, one graduation, one birth away from a medical and/or financial catastrophe.  No matter how wealthy you are when a pandemic comes to our shores, your wealth won’t protect you from the millions of people who have no health care.  The biggest scandal in America is the health care industry! 

Thanks Congressman Kucinich for caring.

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By lynn, November 29, 2006 at 8:14 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

universal health care is not a right—individuals have forgotten how to take charge of their health—big brother does not provide
without consequences.  abolish the current insurance industry and let free market prices determine the cost of care.  gov’t programs always add ineffiencies.  get the legal profession out of the regulatory business of medical practice.  gov’t mandates ruined the emergency care in this country

the real facts are that everyone needs to be more responsible for their lives.  health care insurance should be stratified—not equalized.  if your lifestyle contributes to your bad health you should pay more not depend on the gov’t to take care of you—stop subsidizing bad behavior.

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By yours truly, November 29, 2006 at 5:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Not just who we are as a nation but who we are as individuals.  Does one or does one not love one’s neighbor as oneself?  And if one does, then the health of one’s neighbor becomes as important to oneself as one’s own health.  Which is why we’re gonna see to it that Congress passes the Kucinich-Conyers bill for providing universal health care.  Has to do with being true to one’s convictions. 

 

.

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By Jeanne, November 29, 2006 at 12:48 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

One of the things that really bugs me about this issue is that if we found a solution we would be progressing in many other areas because money would be spent on more productive ways. The ammount of money being spent on paperwork, company overhead (including gold faucets in the exectutive washroom), executive saleries ....
This is like a chain around America’s neck.

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By Bill, November 29, 2006 at 8:46 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I support most of Rep. Kucinich’s approach for health care reform.  This is a topic that should be argued by every American.  We each have a tremendous stake. However, he doesn’t go into the great mass of problems separating for-profit from not-for-profit healthcare.  Here’s a partial list of key issues that knowledgable people need to decide:
- Elimination of jobs that aren’t directly related to health care.  Be specific.
- Cost containment built into the health care industry.  We should be paying less, not more, for new discoveries.
- Pricing that people can understand when shopping for health care.
- Quality that people can understand when shopping for health care.
- Liability reform.
- Electronic record keeping to make data instantly and reliability available.
- Services to be provided by the insurance companies.
- The source for new drugs and procedures required when for-profit companies retract some of their R&D efforts.
If Reps. Kucinich and Conyers can answer these questions, their bill will gain credibility.

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By WCG, November 29, 2006 at 8:26 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Sorry, but I don’t see how universal healthcare has the slightest chance of getting through Congress. There are too many wealthy and politically powerful forces ranged against it. I can see all the TV advertising against “socialist medicine” now. Remember the Clinton attempt to do something about this crisis? Why do you think things would be different now?

Personally, I think Kucinich needs to change his tactics. Target children first! Let’s make sure all children are covered by healthcare as the first step. Even that will be tough, but it’s a lot harder to argue against supporting sick kids. Come on, Democrats! Why shoot yourselves in the foot AGAIN? I agree with Kucinich, but lets start with something that’s achievable, something that’s not so easy to turn against you. The right-wing won’t have such an easy time of it if you start with child coverage.

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By Gloria, November 29, 2006 at 7:45 am Link to this comment
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I read this the morning a huge pharmaceutical company announced a huge employee lay off. Do you imagine after all the heartache they have caused with their prices and dangerous side effects that they would at least cut back on executive compensation? If you think about your utilities you pay for the initial machinery and the button pushers’ salaries. What lowers our self esteem so much that we make the pushers more important than ourselves, the consumers without whom they would be nothing. Health care is only a utility that we are paying luxury goods prices for.

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By William H. Bassett, November 29, 2006 at 3:54 am Link to this comment
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Check out Sheila Kuehl’s SB 840 “Single Payer Health Insurance For California” that passed both houses of the state legislature but was vetoed by our Governor.  FAQs are posted on the League of Women Voters of California website http://lwvc.org  We are continueing the fight here in California- see http://www.healthcareforall.org

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By Jon, November 28, 2006 at 11:09 pm Link to this comment
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If government does away with for profits healthcare and insurance companies, healthcare costs would go down sharply and be affordable.  There is no healthcare or insurance companies in Hong Kong, formerly a brits colony and presently a part of the china. People there don’t believe their money should go to these said companies. As a result, healthcare cost is not an issue and affordable to all. The life expectancy of male and female are 4 more years than americans. It tells the high quality of medical care and costs aren’t correlated.

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By AJA, November 28, 2006 at 9:59 pm Link to this comment
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Dennis hits the nail right on the head.  I moved back to Canada after working in the US for 6 years last year largely because of the injustice in a country that doesn’t take care of its sick, injured, and weak. Anyone that doesn’t support socialized medicine or, alternatively, publicly funded single-payer health insurance of the sort that Dennis advocates is either 1) ignorant. 2) a social darwinist (e.g., like the Nazis). 3) a right-wing ideologue. 4) corrupt (e.g., bought by the private insurance companies, etc.). 5) some elite rich guy without a social conscience whatsoever.
Way to go Dennis!

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By joey, November 28, 2006 at 9:53 pm Link to this comment
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The American Medical Association is a group of the the most wonderful people in America, the doctors. They hire ,at great expense, a large group of well paid lobbyists . Who at their direction defend the AMA’s financial interests.
To stop single payer medicine is their prime mission.
This paradox is the main reason we have no health care in the United States today.

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By Greg, November 28, 2006 at 6:35 pm Link to this comment
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I certainly agree with all of the comments on this blog except for the first posting which is a bunch of monkey spunk. The terms “bloated” and “fraud laden” apply only to the current non-system of healthcare in this country. The evidence seems quite clear. We pay on average 40% more than the country with the next highest per capita healthcare cost which I believe is Germany or Switzerland. Also, the U.S. is ranked 37th in overall healthcare quality which includes 23 different criteria. In other words, we are paying much more and getting less. We are the only major industrialized nation without a nationalized healthcare system. Individual consumers, businesses, healthcare professionals and now the U.S. House of Representatives are seeing the necessity for fundamental changes. The problems that we are facing today won’t disappear or moderate in intensity. These problems will continue to grow to an unacceptable level in the not too distant future, being driven to some degree by the increasing size of the aging population.
Thank you to John Conyers, Dennis Kucinich and other intelligent and progressive members of the U.S. government who are finally ready to confront this problem head on. They are not alone in their efforts since similar legislation is being proposed in several states including California which is my home state.

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By Eleanore Kjellberg, November 28, 2006 at 6:32 pm Link to this comment
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“That’s the reality in this country today. You can lose your job after working for 30 years and you can lose everything. Is that what America has become?”

Yup, that’s the reality in America—survival of the scummiest!

The Defense Department is spending about $4.5 billion a month on the conflict in Iraq, or about $100,000 per minute.
Current spending in Afghanistan is about $800 million a month, or about $18,000 per minute.

And guess what—they are using working-class tax dollars to finance war profiteering and corporate oil speculation. 

Government funds for comprehensive and catastrophic medical coverage for the middle-class and working-class is considered a dime too much to spend.

American workers are viewed as “wage slaves,” when they’re no longer useful— the government can still squeeze their last dime, until they become indigent—-then you can have some
Medicaid—our social “safety net,” is
Constructed by the same guys who manufacture useless body armor for U.S. troops. 

Take good care of yourself—after the politicians bankrupt the U.S. in Iraq—there won’t be one RED CENT left for healthcare.

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By Jeanne, November 28, 2006 at 4:36 pm Link to this comment
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One more thing,
While I was going through my treatment for breast cancer, my sister in law had a friend. This friend knew she had a lump in her breast that was growing but ignored it because their company was laying off the crew. Her husband had been laid off at his job too. She knew she couldn’t afford the treatment so she ignored the diagnosis. Sooo…the treatment for me was miminal because I caught it early and for her it was extensive because she felt trapped in her fate and waited. She lost her breast. She had chemo and radiation and her her prognosis was much more dire. Did she deserve that fate? In America I guess she did. This is third world menatality. Stupid, painful and heart wrenching.

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By Sarah Merlin, November 28, 2006 at 4:01 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Well, Albert, you’re a little short on specifics. How, exactly, does the present system - in which about one-sixth of the entire population is without health insurance - represent anything remotely preferable to what would basically amount to an expansion of Medicare and the VA? In your grossly vague comment, what exactly about the present state of affairs are you saying is either adequate or tolerable? You predict dire consequences (with no empirical basis provided for your opinions) yet you say nothing about the costs of continuing on the present course, in which American families go bankrupt, entire industries leave for foreign shores in order to remain competitive, and people die every day in emergency room hallways? Please do enlighten us as to how things could be worse under some sort of new system.

And a PS to Barry: interviews are not the same thing as news stories. In the former, the reporter is not required to provide sourcing. In the latter, they are.

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By Jeanne, November 28, 2006 at 3:49 pm Link to this comment
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Doc and albert,

Read this from the interview…
Well, yes. Now here, a woman whose name is Dr. Marcia Angell ... a few years ago ... when Conyers and I introduced our bill, she said that—and this is a woman who was the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine—she said that she’d estimate that no more than 50 cents of the healthcare dollar actually reaches the providers.  So if you’re talking about a little more than $2 trillion, where does the rest of the money go?  And where it goes is to, you know, you look at some of the executive compensation where people running these healthcare companies are making tens of millions of dollars a year; when you look at the fraud that’s involved in the system, the drug company profits, how people are paying so much more for drugs than they should be—look at the crooked deal that resulted in ... Medicare being strapped with a law that forces them to pay whatever the drug companies ask for drugs ... the Medicare Part D drug plan forbids the government from negotiating lower prices with the drug companies, and it banned the Canadian import of drugs, and it paid only 30% of that first $5,100—the so-called “doughnut hole”—and forced coverage through private plans. 
—-
Tell me about bloat. In my state, Minnesota, health insurance companies are not supposed to make a profit. Guess what? Last year they did. When the rest of us were trying to survive this industry made a profit in a state where a profit is illegal.

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By zainab, November 28, 2006 at 3:45 pm Link to this comment
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RE: Yet another bloated, fraud laden, UNCONSTITUTIONAL, federal program to further bankrupt the country.

So far that’s a lot of ideological spittle but zero evidence to support the claims.

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By Jeanne, November 28, 2006 at 3:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am really sick of uneducated people writing about a system they have not educated themselves about. Many strong, healthy unions are agreeing with companies about the need for a solution in this area. National healthcare is something that needs to be addressed because premiums are getting too expensive for the middle class and have made us noncompetitive with the markets around the world. In other words, if the burden for health care rests on the backs of the workers and the corporations there is no profit when competing with companies that do not have that burden. The companies outside the US can price their merchandise lower because they do not have to factor in healthcare.

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By mike, November 28, 2006 at 3:37 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Comment #39933 by albert on 11/28 at 6:02 am

Great. Yet another bloated, fraud laden, UNCONSTITUTIONAL, federal program to further bankrupt the country.


-Right, it’s not the endless illegal wars to enrich the war profiteering military industrial complex that bankrupt the country, it’s the social programs.

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By Spinoza, November 28, 2006 at 3:32 pm Link to this comment
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It should be emphasized that socialism does not mean big government.  Rather it means more local control in cooperation with the entire society.  The so called private enterprise that we now have is much more centralized and arbitrary and undemocratic.  I am certain everyone is familiar with the dishonesty, inflated bills, excessive medical procedures and total lack of control that the patient and even the doctor has in the so called care that we get now.

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By Spinoza, November 28, 2006 at 3:14 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

>>>Great. Yet another bloated, fraud laden, UNCONSTITUTIONAL, federal program to further bankrupt the country. <<<<<


What is sick about Amerikkka is that you find so many scummy people making the same type remarks as above.

Capitalism is an inherently evil system based on greed. No decent person would support capitalism if there was a fair genuine debate as to what type of economic system we should have.  Most people support an ethics of “do unto others as you would have others do unto you”.  Capitalist ethics (do in your neighbor before he does you in and might makes right) is most always rejected.

Now national health Insurance is Insurance, not socialized medicine, most people make this mistake.  Socialized medicine is much better! What is the difference?  Under national health insurance the same corrupt system as we have now will continue to exist even if it is called “not for profit”. Doctors and patients will have relatively little power and the paying agency, in this case government, though fairer, will still call the tune. 

Under a socialized system medical staff and patients actually run local clinics and hospitals and decide policy There is much more individual participation in a socialized system. It is more democratic and provides more checks on monopoly power. Socialism is better.

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By Jaded Prole, November 28, 2006 at 3:10 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A National Health plan like this is long overdue. Calling it “Medicare for all” is a bad idea. It needs to be better than Medicare is now—so does Medicare. It needs to pay providers much better than Medicare if they are to get on board. I’ve got a website for it on my blog. We need to get behind this effort.

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By AHCR-Publisher, November 28, 2006 at 2:53 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This comment is for Albert - who thinks that a universal health care system would be unconstitutional and bankrupt the country.

You would change your tune if you lost your health insurance and got sick. Trust me. That’s all it takes in America for one to become an advocate for health care reform.

Albert - read Jeanne’s post.  She is right.  It can happen to anyone…it can happen TO YOU.

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By PJ, November 28, 2006 at 2:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I think DOC and Albert are missing the point. We’re already paying for health care for everyone. ERs cannot refuse treatment to those who cannot pay. Hospitals make up the cost by charging everyone else more and Insurance companies take billions off the top. We’re ALREADY paying for ALL of that. Get it? So we’re already paying for universal care, we’re just doing it the stupid way. Add to that the FACT that Medicare has always been one of the most efficient programs in the history of government (any government) and might start to see why single-payer healthcare is a great idea.

That’s right, there are some things that government does well. Many things it does BETTER than private interests. Health insurance is one of those things. Stop being so afraid of it just because someone told you it’s like socialism.

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By Lisa, November 28, 2006 at 1:31 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Albert and DOC:

GET A CLUE. You’re already paying for big, bloated programs which are bankrupting our country. And the bandits at the heads of the drug companies and for-profit hospitals are laughing at you—all the way to the bank. 

You’re already paying for the health care costs of drug addicts, illegal aliens and people who overeat, smoke and do drugs. Why do you think your prescriptions, copays and insurance premuims are so expensive? DUH. 

Let’s follow the lead of the leading industrial countries of our Earth—Norway, Sweden and Finland—and clean this mess up.

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By Barry, November 28, 2006 at 11:00 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Amazing interview.

However, it is most unhelpful to cite study results of the insurance industry’s “rake” from the $2 trillion spent each year, WITHOUT POSTING A URL OR OTHER REFERENCE FOR THE REST OF US to those studies!

Facts need support. Rep. Kucinich I’m sure has it in spades, but Mr. Scheer’s non-reporting of the study sources is irritatingly incomplete.

Anyone out there have those? I’m a little tired of doing it all myself. Thanks in advance.

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By DOC, November 28, 2006 at 10:50 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I refuse to allow big brother to steal money from me; to pay for some obese beast’s, drug habit. Health is a individual responsibilty that should not burden the healthy.

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By Jeanne, November 28, 2006 at 10:32 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

My huband was laid off as a programmer in July of 2003. We ended up on COBRA. In October of 2003 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had 3 surgeries in 8 months. I had radiation. Thankfully I didn’t need Chemo. My husband was getting contract jobs and losing them for a year before he found a good ‘real’ job. So while going through this diagnosis we paid $1024 a month for COBRA. When you look at the costs of the premium I ended up paying for the radiation out of pocket.

I can’t describe to you how debilitating that year was. I felt as if I was disappearing from the landscape of America. We were sinking into poverty where no one sees you, into the land of the forgotten. We had three kids so we had to keep moving forward. As hope seeped from me I feared it would tarnish them. Two were in college and the youngest was in the ninth grade. The ninth grader is now a twelth grader. She has worked her way through situational depression and is back on track.

My older two are making it as adults. One has insurance through work the other is trying to find affordable insurance. Many, many of their friends have no insurance. Something needs to be done.

I wrote this because it could happen to anyone. My husband had a severance package otherwise we would have lost everything. That’s the reality in this country today. You can lose your job after working for 30 years and you can lose everything. Is that what America has become?

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By albert, November 28, 2006 at 7:02 am Link to this comment
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Great. Yet another bloated, fraud laden, UNCONSTITUTIONAL, federal program to further bankrupt the country.

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