Some notes on what I saw during the recent SEIU health care forum held at UNLV which was rebroadcast on C-SPAN:
- The host claimed that Sen. John Edwards‘ health care plan is the only one that features details on how it will be paid for. This is not true. HR 676 has been around for a few years and has plans to raise taxes and cut the military budget to pay for universal health care. She also repeatedly complimented Edwards on how he said he would raise taxes to help pay for his health care plan.
- Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton‘s health care plan details are non-existent (Obama promises something in the next couple months). They also don’t define universal health care in terms of the government providing health care for all Americans; both Senators keep the HMOs intact by offering something that merely adds another choice alongside extant private coverage plans (Obama made reference to extant insurers not getting all the upfront money the government would likely put into a national health care plan, Clinton wants to force insurance companies to insure everyone with no exclusions for pre-existing conditions). Clinton wants employer-based health care as well—she wants employers to provide insurance to the workers or pay into a pool which will help pay for insurance. Either Senator could end up simply requiring Americans to acquire health care for themselves like how Illinois drivers must get car insurance in order to legally drive their car. This is not at all what Americans think of when they think of universal health care. It was good to see a tough question for Obama coming from an audience member; her question highlighted how little Obama had to offer a health care forum. I see I’m not the first to understand that their appearances benefited the event more than it benefited the public. The corporate media has already narrowed the race to these two candidates and their appearances gave this event a better chance of being covered in mainstream media.
- Sen. Chris Dodd spent his time talking about things other than the particulars his health care plan. Accordingly, there’s not much to say about his plan because judging by what he brought to this forum, it doesn’t seem to exist. He wants Americans to have a health care program as good as the one he has, but disturbingly he didn’t say he’d extend the extant Congressional plan to all Americans. When asked by an audience member, Gov. Bill Richardson said he’d extend the Congressional plan he enjoys.
- Rep. Dennis Kucinich‘s plan will make it illegal to compete with the national plan. H.R. 676 is a single-payer system you can find online. A related story from the Corporate Crime Reporter addresses why a mix of public/private health care won’t work. I said it years ago when the bill was first introduced and it’s still true today: H.R. 676 continues to be the plan to beat.
- Sen. Mike Gravel said “employer-based plans are a non-starter” and criticized all the Democrats except Kucinich for not challenging the status quo. He endorsed a single-payer voucher plan. Vouchers are annually issued to Americans and the user pays a co-pay and a deductible. If you want more than what your voucher covers, you pay for it. You’ll have a choice of doctors, hospitals, and 5 or 6 insurance plans in the voucher system. You “might see a public plan if we don’t see the medical and pharmaceutical plans shaping up”. The size of the voucher will be the cost of your medical bill in the previous year. There are no pre-existing condition exclusions. Preventative care will come from the bully pulpit of the President somehow. He wants to phase out Medicare/Medicaid over time. Funding for his plan was unstated; he started to mention it but then didn’t.
- Public and private health care plans covering the same thing means the rich healthy people will buy the health insurance they like and the poor will get the government plan which will suffer a “death spiral” according to Kucinich.
- Health care tied to employers means you lose your health care when you lose your job. Some jobs won’t come with health care at all and the government will not be incentivized to help those with multiple part-time jobs.
Overall, given how many of the Democrats simply brought nothing to discuss, it was a very cynical event. Obama, Clinton, and Dodd treated the audience badly by not having a detailed plan to go over. Edwards’ and Gravel’s plans keep private insurance intact and for that reason alone neither plan will serve the public well. Kucinich brought something specific to look at and direct your representatives to endorse. On the merits of the issue, he took the event.