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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Daschle and Obama to Push Universal Health Coverage? Let's Hope So!

I've had one face-to-face conversation with Tom Daschle. August 15, 2003, the Senate Minority Leader came to Madison and threw a picnic at Westside Park. In his remarks to the well-fed crowd, Senator Daschle mentioned health care. I had just discovered Dennis Kucinich and his argument that universal health coverage, Medicare for all, would actually save money. I wanted to know what the most powerful South Dakotan in the world at that moment had to say about single-payer, not-for-profit health insurance.

So I got in line with my neighbors to shake Senator Daschle's hand and see if he'd have time for a question. I thought maybe Daschle's Spidey-sense would detect my Republican registration (yup, I hadn't converted yet in 2003) and he would give me a quick hi-how-are-ya and move on.

Instead, after I opened with an invite for Daschle to come back and judge the State Debate Tournament (hey! offer remains open!) Daschle spent a good five minutes, maybe more responding to my questions about health care. On that hot summer evening, he said:
  • A single-payer system was politically unsellable.
  • The closest doable compromise system was a system of regional pools.
  • The larger the risk pool the better; a nationwide risk pool would be best.
Daschle expressed no fears about a national health care system; he spoke favorably of the systems in other countries, citing the example of his son-in-law, who broke his arm in Germany and was able to get it treated without cost or paperwork. He noted that America had the highest health care expenditures in the world as well as terribly inefficient delivery of those services.

When I asked if we would be going too far if we declared health care a fundamental human right, he said no, with the qualification that we need to define exactly what health care we consider necessary in order to avoid overutilization of the system.

That was five years ago. Senator Daschle is about to become Secretary of Health and Human Services in a Democratic administration with a Democratic Congress. I would suggest that the political sellability of health care reform has changed. To wit:
TPM's Greg Sargent says Daschle believes we need comprehensive, not incremental reform. A lot of Americans fed up with long waits, constant billing errors, and unaffordable, unportable coverage would agree.

My conservative friends are probably thinking, "Oh my goodness—Obama mght actually try to pass universal health care." This diehard Dennis Kucinich fan is saying the exact same thing... but with a tingly sense of wonder and a readiness to fight for it.

Tom, Ted, Barack—you have a moment in history, an opportunity to rally the country behind a great moral and practical reform that will save money and lives. Steam train a-comin'—Dennis, dust off HR 676! Single-payer, not-for-profit health coverage: let's make it happen!


  1. Comrade:

    Once a Republican...always a Republican.

  2. CAH:

    I think I'm slowly coming around to thinking that a nationalized health care system would be a good approach. I found this program on PBS to be quite enlightening:


    It basically explains how different health care systems work in other nations. I really like the concept of a procedure "book price" as is set by the government and the medical association in several of the countries they profiled. Both sides agreee on a fair price together.

    Further, I thought their profile of the Japanese system was very interesting. Even though they have a nationalized system, they have found a way to create a system that innovates and creates new health care technologies at an equivalently quick rate as the US. Their use of MRI to diagnose basically everything should serve as a model for how a well performing system works.

    My basic arguement against a nationalized system would be that it will decrease the speed of innovation and hence progress. This program shows that my position was ignorant at best...

  3. If Obama wants Change, what's with the retreads from the Clinton White House?

    Hillary... Eric Holder... Rahm Emanuel... Where are the fresh faces? I know there's a great deal to be said about experience. I understand picking someone like Daschle. But these choices seem pretty safe so far.

  4. My heartache about a nationalized health care system is our national debt. I wonder how far our nation is from financial insolvency.

    I wonder if this would also allow illegal immigrants to receive benefits too. A small town named 'Sleepy Eye' in the middle of Minnesota, where my grandparents live, has a problem with illegal immigrants. Some illegal immigrants come into a hospital, present false ID or insurance cards, and then leave without paying. Furthermore, some illegal immigrants end up at the hospital for an emergency visit and then end up unable to pay. So certain hospitals across our nation are already burdened. Will socialized medicine bring more red tape into hospitals by eating up my taxpayer money?

  5. Conrad,

    You got it all wrong. It's Free! It doesn't cost a thing. Doctors will get paid so much everyone will want to be a doctor. Even though the patient load will double or triple, the doctors will have less patients.
    And the best part of it is when your kid is really sick, there won't be any room for her because the system isn't set up to heal the sick. It's there to keep people healthy. Especially, when you don't have time to wait and that plan you wanted to keep can't afford to compete with Big Government!
    Now, when there is a case that needs greater priority, the surgeon adjusts his schedule. How's the surgeon going to adjust his schedule when our government has to approve the schedule? The only thing they do quickly is spend our money! Bailout! Bailout! Bailout!

  6. So, Tom Daschle didn't give you any negatives to a plan and you bought it! Every plan has a down side. You know that don't you!

    As Tony so well illustrated -
    Even though theyhave a nationalized system, they have found a way to create a system that innovates and creates new health care technologies at an equivalently quick rate as the US.

    That just told you the standard others compare themselves to is the US.

    Others argue the cost and the loss of lives. But the BIG problem is that the Government would control it. Tom, Ted, Hillary, Dennis and Obama may want to help but their first thought is NOT the Health of this Country or they would first layout the problems that need to be addressed, address them then proceed.

    This is about more money flowing into the government and more citizens dependant on their political leaders. All from people who could care less how their constituents get their health care.

  7. univeral healthcare = bad news bears


  8. >You got it all wrong. It's Free!


    Nothing is free. Eventually we will all pay for what the government decides to do.

    Other potential problems with socialized medicine...

    An acquaintance of mine said that she has seen socialized medicine in Germany. She said that one has to really wait to see a doctor in Germany. I can see why that might be true. Would we like to have red tape in our hospitals? Would we like the government to be the one to approve our appointments with the doctor?

  9. My conservative friends are probably thinking, "Oh my goodness—Obama mght actually try to pass universal health care." This diehard Dennis Kucinich fan is saying the exact same thing... but with a tingly sense of wonder and a readiness to fight for it.

    Good morning, Cory! A "conservative" colleague here.

    I am with you on the universal health care track. But only if it's done right. I don't fear "Kucinich care"; I think it's the best way to go. I do fear that, in their zeal and haste, politicians might cobble together a hybrid system that will, in practice, give us the worst of most worlds and the best of none.

  10. Conrad,

    I was going for irony, but got disgusted with the way it sounded like the actual plan. So I went for compare and contrast.

    Currently, those who go without healthcare are almost non-existant compared to those who will die or deteriorate from the mismanagement from government controlled healthcare. Yes, the larger the amount of contributors the less the risk pool will be. Yes, everyone having healthcare is a Great Goal! BUT, we are sacrificing the health of, literally, our children to give our responsibility to the Government!
    This is Death by Sloth!


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