Mike Gravel on Health Care
Libertarian for President; Former Democratic Senator (AK)
A: Iíd pay for it with a retail sales tax. I favor universal coverage of quality medical care. I favor it through a device of using vouchers where everybody would be able to get a voucher. Theyíd sign up for it every year. It would guarantee them equal health care. All citizens would get the same health care. They would be able choose from insurance plans or a government plan like Medicare. Thatís how we would have health care, and the only way youíre going to pay for it is not by saddling business. All you do by forcing business to pay for health care or passing a law telling people they have to go buy insurance, which is a subsidy for the insurance companies, all these plans are going backwards.
A: By one, making the whole process competitive. Two, by changing the control thatís held by the pharmaceutical companies, by the insurance companies and the health-care industry over the Congress so that they cannot properly design a health-care system that meets everything that you defined. Stop and think what failure we have in this country. Bismarck put this in place in 1888. Truman advocated this in 1946. And we still canít get it right. Maybe thereís something failing in our society. And there is. Itís called representative government. And what we need to do is to equip the American people to then step in and be able to make laws in partnership with their elected officials.
A: Itís not so difficult, and it doesnít take a lot of rethinking. Thereís nothing wrong with a wealthy--supposedly wealthy--country like ours to define that everybody should have the same health care. And thatís what Iíve done with my program, [designed by] people that have really fought, theyíve spent their lives at this. Itís not that difficult if you have a commitment. But when the industry that profits from health care calls the shots on the way health care is going to be delivered, then you are going to see the anomalous situation that you have in this country where they canít even deliver it to everybody fairly.
Q: So, how would you prohibit that kind of influence?
A: Well, you canít. This is representative government. They put up all the money.
A: Iíd very simply recognize that we have to provide a system where everybody is treated equally, and thatís a voucher system. You would sign up for a voucher, you would not pay for it; they would give you the choice of five insurance plans, and the insurance companies would not determine what care youíll get. Theyíll compete on the basis of administration. But the difference between the voucher plan, which gives you freedom to pick a doctor, pick a hospital, is different from all the others because theyíre financing their plans via business enterprise. And thereís no reason why businesses in this country should have to carry the cost of health care. It disadvantages them in the world competitive market. It makes no sense. Youíre given the choice of either a job or health care, but youíll never get both
A: The obvious answer is that we need to do a better job on health care. We need to do a better job with respect to how we treat Americans. I feel very deeply.
GRAVEL: Understand that the health care that weíre talking about, by and large, is going backwards. Weíre subsidizing the insurance companies. And all the plans that Iíve heard of, except Dennisís, is a continued subsidization of the insurance companies.
A: Doctors do a lot of testing today to cover their backside, you know, because they donít want to be sued. One of the features of these regional boards is weíre going to do away with what we see that the attorneys love, and that is to go sue doctors or raise the costs where they canít even stay in business.
Now, what can we do? Real simple. We can turn around and say letís have a health care program that establishes equality. Itís called the universal single-payer -- by single-payer I mean all Americans pay for it regardless of the system you have now but the system youíre going to get, single-payer Health Care Voucher plan.
And the vouchers are set up for risk on an individual basis, not on a collective this fits all, because if youíre young, you probably donít have a cost of more than $3,000. When youíre my age, it could be $180,000 in one year, which is what I got hit with and I went bankrupt as a result of that.
There will be no lemon-dropping-- no ďyou donít qualify, you got a preexisting condition.Ē This plan can work. All we need to do is bring the people in. The people are not empowered to do anything.
A: There is a role for the president in his or her leadership capacity, and that is to change the culture, to really energize people to exercise, to eat the right foods. [A constituent] showed me she could have got this junk bar for 50 cents but they were asking for $.125 for an apple. Doesnít that tell you something about the dynamics of whatís going on? We need a leadership that sets a tone. We know the problem of obesity. I try to diet all the time, sometimes successfully, sometimes not so successfully. But when all youíve got in your field of vision is junk food, you got problems. The government is a tool. [But now] the special interests determine how the tools of government is handled by the lobbyists to manipulate you to vote for them. Thatís the process that we live under and thatís process that has to change.
A: One of the facets of my plan would be to keep in place Medicare and Medicaid and phase them out over time. Because plans to put everybody on Medicare arenít going to fly financially and just canít be met. We are in deep economic difficulty and in debt. So when you talk about the seniors, this is where you have these health regional boards where in that region theyíll be defining what goes into these various vouchers. And theyíll change every year depending upon your personal history as you get older. We know it costs less for young people and it costs more for old people. Thatís just the nature of the situation. So I donít have any magic to take care of the seniors. All I can say is I can set up a structure that will have checks and balances where theyíll have a better say, theyíll have a better say than they have today.
Comprehensive care that provides for early detection of disease is unavailable. There are not enough facilities in the right places. There is no effort to assure that health problems will be checked in the whole population.
A fundamental principle of a peopleís platform must be to establish citizen control over the public and private medical-industrial complex. A national health administration must coordinate efforts with local health districts. The concept of a national health service is not new. It has worked successfully in England & other nations. The difficulties & dislocations will be great in implementing it here, but the step must be taken.
|Other candidates on Health Care:||Mike Gravel on other issues:|
GOP: Sen.John McCain
GOP V.P.: Gov.Sarah Palin
Democrat: Sen.Barack Obama
Dem.V.P.: Sen.Joe Biden
Constitution: Chuck Baldwin
Libertarian: Rep.Bob Barr
Constitution: Amb.Alan Keyes
Liberation: Gloria La Riva
Green: Rep.Cynthia McKinney
Socialist: Brian Moore
Independent: Ralph Nader