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Bill Richardson on Health Care

Democratic Governor (NM); Secretary of Commerce-Designee


ObamaCare will be crowning achievement once we get it done

Q: Your take on ObamaCare?

RICHARDSON: I think we should focus on the good things that have happened with ObamaCare. Healthcare prices have gone down; those insured with preexisting conditions, that's been resolved. The issue of seniors getting lower prescription drug costs, that's good. But a lot of it is up to governors. It's up to the states. I think eventually, when this ObamaCare is implemented, it will be one of his crowning achievements in the first term. But right now, short term, a lot of difficulty. There's a lot of politics. You have the Tea Party basically saying, "We're going to de-fund ObamaCare, or we're going to shut down the government." I mean, that's a suicide mission.

Source: Meet the Press 2013 interviews: 2016 presidential hopefuls , Aug 11, 2013

2007: Pushed for New Mexico universal health insurance

When Richardson was pushing for universal health insurance in 2007, his backers included Blue Cross/Blue Shield of New Mexico and Presbyterian Healthcare Services. Presbyterian's CEO James Hinton praised Richardson's focus on "the need for a partnership between the public sector and the private sector."

Richardson was pushing for mandates that everyone purchase health insurance, paired with subsidies for private health insurance. Hinton and his wife both gave the maximum to Richardson's presidential bid, among their nearly $30,000 in reported campaign contributions. (They also gave $1,000 to Richardson's 2006 Governor campaign.)

So the real partnership here seems to entail Richardson promising to require all New Mexicans to buy a product that Hinton happens to provide, while Hinton gives a cut of his profits to Richardson's campaign for president. Unsurprisingly, Richardson became quite popular with health insurers.

Source: Obamanomics, by Timothy P. Carney, p. 29-30 , Nov 30, 2009

FactCheck: Between 7% and 31% of costs are administrative

Richardson used a questionable figure on health care costs, saying that “one-third” of the $2.2 trillion spent on health care “goes to administration and bureaucracy.” The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services does project that health care spending in the US will be more than $2.2 trillion in 2007. But the figure for administrative spending is only 7.4% of all national health expenditures in 2007: for “program administration and net cost of private health insurance.”

Richardson’s statistic does have some support, however. A 2007 survey conducted by PNC Financial Services Group said that nearly a third of expenditures went to administration. But that finding was merely the opinion of the 200 hospital and insurance company executives queried.

Also, a 2003 article in the New England Journal of Medicine said that in 1999, 31% of health care expenditures went to administration. The authors included indirect costs, such as an estimate for the time physicians spend on administrative work.

Source: FactCheck on 2007 Des Moines Register Democratic debate , Dec 13, 2007

Universal health care is a right for every American

I believe universal health care is a right for every American. 1/3 of all of our healthcare budget, $2.2 trillion, goes to administration and bureaucracy, failure to have electronic records. That has to shift to direct care. Prevention is going to be the key. 33% of Medicare costs are, today, related to diabetes. We’ve got to have an elimination of junk food in schools. We have to be a country that does more research on stem cell research, on autism, on heart disease, on chronic diseases, on cancer.
Source: 2007 Des Moines Register Democratic Debate , Dec 13, 2007

Give students incentives to become health professionals

In exchange for two years of tuition paid by the government or loans, you give one year of national service to the country. This will attract more doctors and will enable students to afford a college education when it’s taking them seven years to pay for this. Get rid of the student loan and bank agencies that are ripping off the system. Re-establish, on a general basis, the doctor-patient relationship. Deal with Medicare reimbursement and ways that we also not forget health professionals.
Source: 2007 Democratic debate at Drexel University , Oct 30, 2007

Universal health care, no matter who you are

Q: Do you favor universal coverage without exception, and how would you pay for it?

A: I do favor universal health care, no matter who you are, rich or poor, black, brown, white, that has to be the fundamental point in my health-care plan. I believe th way you do it is by:

Source: Huffington Post Mash-Up: 2007 Democratic on-line debate , Sep 13, 2007

New healthcare system in one year, with no new bureaucracies

Q: You say you would resolve the healthcare issue in one year. How would you do it, exactly?

A: I would pass it in one year. It would take two or three years to implement. This is what I would do.

  1. Every American--black, brown, white, yellow, rich or poor--everyone should have access to the best possible health plan.
  2. No new bureaucracies.
  3. We also have to share. Everyone shares in my plan.
  4. If you have a health care plan and you’re satisfied with it, you can keep it. But we need to have everyone accessible to the best congressional plan.
  5. We also have to lower Medicare from 65 to 55 and over.
  6. For all veterans: I would give veterans a Heroes Health Card, and they could get their health care anywhere they want.
  7. What I also want to do is focus early on prevention, on cancer research, stem cell research, autism, heart disease.
  8. But we’ve got to start with kids. We’ve got to get rid of junk food in schools. We have to have healthy breakfasts for every child.
Source: 2007 Democratic primary debate on Univision in Spanish , Sep 9, 2007

Cover undocumented workers under health plan

Q: Does your health care plan cover undocumented workers?

A: Yes, it would. It should cover everybody. In this country, no matter who you are, whether you’re a ditch-digger, you’re a teacher, you’re a CEO, you’re a waiter, you’re a maid, every American deserves the right to the best possible quality health care. That would be part of my plan.

Source: 2007 YouTube Democratic Primary debate, Charleston SC , Jul 23, 2007

FactCheck: Correct that 33% of Medicare is diabetes

Richardson asserted, “Medicare: 33% of it is diabetes.” That surprisingly high figure turns out to be reasonably accurate. The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services said, “about 18% of Medicare beneficiaries have diabetes, yet they account for 32% of Medicare spending.” To be strictly accurate Richardson should have said that diabetics account for the large share of Medicare spending, not diabetes. The disease is usually accompanied by a variety of other ailments that also require treatment.
Source: FactCheck on 2007 YouTube Democratic Primary debate , Jul 23, 2007

Fund fight on HIV/AIDS both nationally and internationally

Q: African-Americans, though 17% of all American teenagers, are 69% of the population of teenagers diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. What is the plan to stop and to protect these young people from this scourge?

A: It is a moral imperative that America have a policy to fight this dreaded disease both nationally and internationally. You got to make some tough choices. First, we’ve got to have needles [in exchange programs]. We have to be sure that we have efforts in the African-American community to have comprehensive education. In addition, we have to deal with Africa. Close to 20% of the African people have some kind of HIV virus. It’s important that the president of the US make a major funding effort, a major commitment to deal with this issue. And here I’m going to say something positive about President Bush. His funding for Millennium accountability and Millennium appropriations has been relatively impressive.

Source: 2007 Democratic Primary Debate at Howard University , Jun 28, 2007

FactCheck: AIDS rate in Africa is 5.8%, not 20% as claimed

Richardson drastically overstated the prevalence of HIV & AIDS in Africa. Richardson said, “Close to 20% of the African people have some kind of HIV virus.”

That’s a huge overstatement. It is true that there are some individual countries in Africa with a 20% or higher rate of HIV infection. In fact, when we contacted the Richardson campaign, an aide cited statistics showing seven countries with that level of infection. However, that’s out of 48 countries in sub-Saharan Africa alone.

While the number of HIV cases in sub-Saharan Africa is quite large--25 million, according to the UN--it is not nearly 20% of the total population of the region. In fact, it’s 5.8%, according to the World Bank. Adding in North Africa, with its lower rate of HIV infection, would further reduce the overall percentage for all the “African people.” The UN did estimate that more than 25% of Africans were directly affected, though not infected, by HIV; this included spouses, children & elderly dependents of HIV sufferers.

Source: FactCheck on 2007 Democratic Primary Debate at Howard U. , Jun 28, 2007

NM plan: mandatory; prevention-based; choose your own plan

We insured every child under five in New Mexico and increased immunizations. We got rid of junk food in schools. We brought mandatory phys ed in. My plan is mandatory. You do have everybody sharing -- the employer, the employee, you have the state and the federal government. If you were satisfied with your health care plan, you can keep it. No new bureaucracy. But you focus on prevention. You allow everybody to get the Congressional plan that every member here has. You bring Medicare 55 and over.
Source: 2007 Dem. debate at Saint Anselm College , Jun 3, 2007

Focus on preventive healthcare without raising taxes

Q: You are perhaps the most strident on the position against raising taxes to pay for health care.

A: As Democrats, I just hope that we always don’t think of new taxes to pay for programs. This is what I would do. I would have the following principles In my new health care plan, no new bureaucracy. Every American shares, along with businesses, the state and the federal government. I would focus on prevention. I would also ensure that the first thing we do is deal with the bureaucracy & inefficiencies in our health care system. 31% of our health care goes to inefficiencies and bureaucracy. If we had a health information system where doctors and nurses could share information about health care, we would save billions of dollars. I would also make sure that we would re-establish the doctor- patient relationship, eliminate those in the middle, like HMOs and others. But my plan would focus on prevention, and focus more on deterring diseases like diabetes, that is 30% of our Medicare costs.

Source: 2007 South Carolina Democratic primary debate, on MSNBC , Apr 26, 2007

All Americans need same coverage as members of Congress

We, as Americans, are in crisis today. As a governor I have to deal with the health care crisis every day. So what would I do as a president?
  1. All Americans and all businesses should have the same coverage as members of Congress.
  2. Americans 55 and older should be able to purchase coverage through Medicare. Today it’s at 65.
  3. A trade: the federal government, Medicare, goes to treat seniors and the disabled in exchange for the state dealing and increasing Medicare coverage for children and families.
  4. Veterans: We should give our military veterans the access they need anywhere they want, any time they want.
What about costs? I would have a cooperative plan between the employer, businesses, the state and the federal government. I would propose a refundable tax credit for those Americans that need coverage based on income. I would clamp down on credit card companies that are covering excessive interest rate costs.
Source: SEIU Democratic Health Care Forum in Las Vegas , Mar 24, 2007

State flexibility creates universal coverage without taxes

Q: Gov. Vilsack said we don’t have to increase taxes to pay for universal health care. Sen. Edwards say don’t believe anyone who says that. Who’s right?

A: I would not increase taxes. The problem is the excessive costs of health care and the coverage. I would focus on preventive health care: like child obesity programs. But the big problem is the huge administrative costs of health care. 31% of the costs are administrative. A lot of it is waste. There are 50 Medicaid programs. They don’t give the states the flexibility to run them.

What I like is what some states have done, and that is a Massachusetts-style plan with good benefits that basically says we facilitate it for employers and employees to get mandatory coverage.

Source: 2007 AFSCME Democratic primary debate in Carson City Nevada , Feb 21, 2007

Shift Medicaid costs back from states to federal

We governors depend heavily on our states’ relationship with Washington. The relationship with Washington ought to be a partnership based on consultation and a shared interest in the common good.

Washington views the states cynically as a safety valve for its own chronic inability to manage our affairs. It’s the worst of all possible worlds: Washington sets the terms of what must be done in certain public programs, then shifts the financial burden to the states.

The worst case in point is Medicaid. Costs are rising , yet the federal government keeps reducing its share of the funding for the program. In my new NM budget, despite federal cuts, we increased Medicaid spending by 16%. Faced with rising costs, we remained committed to providing health care to our most vulnerable citizens. We implemented cost containment measures, and these are a viable solution in the short term, but they won’t work in the long term if the feds continue to increase the states’ share of the costs.

Source: Between Worlds, by Bill Richardson, p.345-346 , Nov 3, 2005

Secure lower prescription drug costs for seniors

We passed legislation to secure lower prescription drug costs for seniors and funded efforts to recruit and reform health professionals. Shoddy contracts and poor financial management by the previous administration have lost the state tens of millions of dollars in matching federal funds. We’re working through the mess and have put real systems of accountability in place as we provide health care services to hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans.
Source: 2004 State of the State speech to the New Mexico Legislature , Jan 20, 2004

Focus on raising childhood immunization rates

While we’re facing an explosion of Medicaid costs that are straining our budget, I pledge to protect Medicaid eligibility levels for children. I’m proposing to increase Medicaid by providing approximately $55 million in new state funds to match federal funds. I want to also continue our focus on raising childhood immunization rates in New Mexico. Immunizing more of our children today means we’ll have healthier, more successful citizens down the road.
Source: 2004 State of the State speech to the New Mexico Legislature , Jan 20, 2004

Increase access to affordable health care

I have two defining goals in health-care reform: decrease the number of uninsured New Mexicans - and increase access to affordable health care for all. Health care is a shared responsibility of governments, employers and individuals and their families. It will not be quick and it will not be easy, but we must have the best efforts of everybody involved in health care - from consumers to HMO executives - if we are to find ways to attain my goals of wider coverage and greater access.
Source: 2004 State of the State speech to the New Mexico Legislature , Jan 20, 2004

Consolidate mental health and substance abuse therapy needs

I want to create a new way to consolidate mental health and substance abuse into a single comprehensive advisory structure. I want to immediately create a common plan and structure to address the mental health and substance abuse therapy needs of New Mexicans, and have a draft ready to review by March, a request for proposals out by September, and the system up and running by July of 2005.
Source: 2004 State of the State speech to the New Mexico Legislature , Jan 20, 2004

Restrain Medicaid costs and maintain benefits

We’re working diligently to uncover and eliminate fraud, abuse, and errors in the Medicaid system. If we don’t control Medicaid costs now, we will face cutting eligibility and services down the road. We have to pay for these programs, and this is the most fiscally responsible way to do it. I say we restrain costs and maintain benefits now, while working to create more access in the long run for working New Mexicans through my healthcare purchasing collaborative.
Source: 2004 State of the State speech to the New Mexico Legislature , Jan 20, 2004

Affordable access to healthcare for all New Mexicans

A robust economy with successful companies translates into higher levels of healthcare and coverage for all. However, in the short term, we can make some fundamental changes to how we approach healthcare in New Mexico and improve the results. We need to find a way to make healthcare more affordable and ensure that all New Mexicans have the access to the care that they need.

My approach requires innovation, proven solutions, and use of best practices to shift New Mexico from fragmented care delivery to purchasing organized and accountable systems of care. It combines good ideas from other states, with increased efficiency and preventative healthcare.

During this campaign I have already made specific proposals regarding the recruitment and retention of doctors and nurses. And I have proposed a prescription drug program for our seniors.

Source: Campaign web site, RichardsonForGovernor.com, “Priorities” , Oct 24, 2002

New Mexico Cares: invest in our health

    [My healthcare plan is] driven by a principle that says the health of our citizens is something as a state where we must invest-or we risk falling farther behind in jobs, in education, and every other major category. My approach, which I call “New Mexico Cares,” is a seven-part plan.
  1. Immediately re-evaluate the structure of our Medicaid contracts and programs to ensure we are holding providers accountable for superior treatment and improved results.
  2. Keep doctors in New Mexico by lowering taxes.
  3. Institute a new approach of comprehensive care for our elderly and chronically ill.
  4. Expand Medicaid enrollment for children.
  5. Create a consumer report card for hospitals and healthcare providers.
  6. Offer a partnership to business that gives a tax break in exchange for a commitment to provide health insurance to fulltime employees.
  7. Establish a statewide telemedicine network, to provide advanced levels of diagnosis and treatment to rural communities throughout our state.
    Source: Campaign web site, RichardsonForGovernor.com, “Priorities” , Oct 24, 2002

    Supports managed competition & medical savings accounts

    Source: 1996 Congressional National Political Awareness Test , Nov 1, 1996

    Adopt national health reform legislation before the end of the year.

    Richardson signed a letter from 22 Governors to Congressional leaders:

    In a letter to congressional leadership, 22 governors are urging federal lawmakers to adopt national health reform legislation before the end of the year to provide families and businesses with much-needed security and stability.

    "We commend you and your colleagues for provisions included in your bills that will help states," the governors wrote. "Many of the provisions will allow states to achieve long term savings and help cover those who currently go without health coverage. We recognize that health reform is a shared responsibility and everyone, including state governments, needs to partner to reform our broken health care system."

    "Efforts at the federal level, like the recent and critical investments that support states' HIV and prevention initiatives, are beginning the work to lower health care costs. Our citizens and our states, however, will only achieve the health care security and stability they need if we succeed in working together to achieve health care reform."

    Source: Letter from CO Gov. Bill Ritter and 21 other Governors 10-GOV1 on Oct 1, 2009

    Other candidates on Health Care: Bill Richardson on other issues:
    Former Presidents:
    George W. Bush (R,2001-2009)
    Bill Clinton (D,1993-2001)
    George Bush Sr. (R,1989-1993)
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    Jimmy Carter (D,1977-1981)
    Gerald Ford (R,1974-1977)
    Richard Nixon (R,1969-1974)
    Lyndon Johnson (D,1963-1969)
    John F. Kennedy (D,1961-1963)
    Dwight Eisenhower (R,1953-1961)
    Harry_S_TrumanHarry S Truman(D,1945-1953)

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    Pat Buchanan
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    Page last updated: Jul 03, 2014