Mike Gravel on Health Care

Libertarian for President; Former Democratic Senator (AK)

Expand Medicare coverage & child healthcare programs

Source: Presidential Election 2008 Political Courage Test Apr 22, 2008

Universal coverage with guaranteed equal care

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

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.

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

Reforms fail because pharma companies control Congress

Q: For the well-insured majority, the actual quality of health care they receive and the speed with which they receive it is arguably the best in the world. How do you cover everyone without sacrificing quality or creating scarcity in the health-care system?

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.

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

Everybody should have the same health care

Q: Do we need not only to consider how we fund it and who has access to it, but the definition of what we mean by health care in America and how we go about rethinking it?

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.

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

Applies lessons from his healthcare-related bankruptcy

Q: Youíve said that your medical bills led you to bankruptcy. How would you apply your personal experience in your plan?

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

Source: 2007 Democratic primary debate on Univision in Spanish Sep 9, 2007

Need to do better job on treating Americans with HIV

Q: Nearly 50% black, gay and bisexual men in some of America Ďs urban cities may already be infected with HIV. Iím wondering what can we be doing a better job of to tackle this problem.

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.

Source: 2007 HRC/LOGO debate on gay issues Aug 9, 2007

End subsidization of the insurance companies

KUCINICH [to Gravel]: We have a nation of such wealth, yet we have 46 million Americans without any health insurance, another 50 million underinsured. Itís time for us to make every American know that they should have access. It is a basic right in a democratic society. We should be able to fund all those diseases where people are suffering, but we have to end for-profit medicine. It is time to take the for-profit insurance companies out of the business and have a not-for-profit health care where everyoneís covered.

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.

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

Doctors do a lot of testing today to cover their backsides

Q: Have you found that for elderly patients the medical system doesnít seem to have the same aggressiveness and the same sort of curiosity for diagnostic testing?

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.

Source: SEIU Democratic Health Care Forum in Las Vegas Mar 24, 2007

Single-payer health care plan via vouchers you can add to

Under the single-payer health care voucher plan.we would issue vouchers to every single American. The vouchers, you donít pay for them, theyíre issued to you. You sign up every year for them. The vouchers will have a very modest co-pay, a very modest deductible, but thatís it. Everybody gets the same product universally. And then if you want more than the product you got, you pay for it. Thereís no magic in this whole process. Somebody is going to pay. You know who pays, itís the average American.
Source: SEIU Democratic Health Care Forum in Las Vegas Mar 24, 2007

Real reform impossible under mercantile lobbying system

I have my suspicions with the predatory activities under our present mercantile system where you have your lobbyists, 30,000 in Washington, go out and make sure that they take care of their clients. [Universal healthcare] is not going to be enacted by the Congress. Never will happen, for the very simple reason that thereís too many interests, 30,000 lobbyists. Who do you think is bundling all these millions of dollars to the presidential candidates? My God, itís coming from vital special interests.
Source: SEIU Democratic Health Care Forum in Las Vegas Mar 24, 2007

Reforming employer-based system keeps historical accident

Whatís wrong with health care in this country is that we saddle the business community with carrying it, and they canít do it because itís going to cost you your jobs, itís going to damage you internationally. Why? Historical accident--[that employers provide health insurance]. In the second World War when wages were frozen, the only way you could get people to come into your company and work was to give them a lot of health care benefits. The war is over and we donít have this freeze on wages, so we donít need that system to go ahead and carry. [Health care reform] involving employers and employees is a non-starter and itís a Band-Aid that is not going to work.

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.

Source: SEIU Democratic Health Care Forum in Las Vegas Mar 24, 2007

Vouchers provide freedom of choice and perhaps public plan

With a voucher [system, where each person gets an annual pre-paid health-care voucher], youíve got the freedom of choice in plans. Now, you might have a public plan if we donít see the insurance industry and the pharmaceutical industry shaping up. But letís have a central body called a health care board with regional boards that they would then define what the various vouchers are for.

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.

Source: SEIU Democratic Health Care Forum in Las Vegas Mar 24, 2007

President has role to energize people for preventive health

Q: How would you increase the role of prevention in the American health care system?

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.

Source: SEIU Democratic Health Care Forum in Las Vegas Mar 24, 2007

Phase out Medicare and Medicaid over time

Q: What is your plan for providing preventative and diagnostic services for health care for our seniors, people with disabilities and all Americans?

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.

Source: SEIU Democratic Health Care Forum in Las Vegas Mar 24, 2007

Citizen Power includes universal health care

Gravel authored a book titled Citizen Power in which he advocated the implementation of numerous populist ideas, including public financing of elections, a progressive tax with no deductions or exemptions, universal health care, and school vouchers. The book also contained the complete text of the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the complete platform adopted by the Populist Party during the 1892 presidential election.
Source: Wikipedia.org article, ďMike GravelĒ Jan 1, 2007

Almost all developed nations provide healthcare for all

The US and South Africa are the only two developed nations in the world that do not provide healthcare for all their citizens. The World Health Organization ranked the US 37th [worldwide] for overall health performance and 54th for healthcare fairness. Yet the United States spends more per capita for healthcare than any other nation in the world. The United States is 41st in the world for infant mortality; Cuba scores higher. Women are 70% more likely to die in childbirth in America than in Europe.
Source: Press release, ďStepping Back From ImperialismĒ Nov 1, 2006

We have impressive resources but need delivery to people

Despite impressive medical resources & progress in eliminating diseases & prolonging life, we do not have a health care delivery system. We have no authority in prescribing how our health needs will be met, even though we pay the bills. This basic fault, more than any other factor, is responsible for soaring costs & the tremendous disparity of care.

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.

Source: Citizen Power, by Sen. Mike Gravel, p.144-155 Jan 1, 1972

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

Third Parties:
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
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Page last updated: Feb 08, 2010