Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Howard Dean: "This Is Ridiculous. We're 60 Years Behind the Times" on Fixing Health Care

In his new book, Howard Dean's Prescription for Real Health Care Reform, the physician and former candidate explains what makes the American health care system the most expensive in the world but nowhere near the best. He calmly destroys the industry's arguments against substantial change and offers a plan to give everyone access to quality health care at a price that won't break the bank.

AlterNet caught up with Dean to discuss the book and the larger political landscape in which the debate over health care is taking pace.
Howard Dean: In a nutshell, it looks like Medicare. We've had a single-payer in this country for 45 years, and the Republicans have used the same language today that they were using in 1965 to denounce it. And it works really well.

It has its faults like every system, but it is cheaper, it is more efficient and a far smaller percentage of dollars that goes into it is spent on non-health-care items. It's about five times as expensive to insure yourself with a private health insurance than it is with Medicare. So that's what the public option looks like. It's what we've had -- and your grandparents, and your parents have had -- for years.

And of course I couldn't agree more with this:
What do you think about the argument that if we in the progressive movement had started basically pushing [Michigan Rep. John] Conyers' HR 676 [single-payer bill], we might not have a better chance of meeting in the middle with a hybrid plan such as the one that you've laid out.

HD: Well, I think that was a mistake made by the administration. I do not think we should have "taken single-payer off the table." I don't believe that the votes are there for single-payer, and I don't believe that the politics are right for single-payer, but single-payer has some good things to recommend it, and we should be discussing what those good things are. And the most important part of single-payer is its cost effectiveness. It is just incredibly cost effective relative to any other system.

And so, you know, I don't know about the positioning, because in some ways you're right -- because we started with the public option. The public option -- and people don't understand this in Congress -- the public option is the compromise.

JH: Right.

HD: If you give up the public option, then this is not worth doing. You can do some insurance reform, but you shouldn't put any money into it. Just force the insurance companies to behave differently by the law, but don't put a trillion dollars into the system we already have. It's already too expensive.

Read it all at AlterNet

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