Progressive leader and health crusader Dean on what it’s going to take to overhaul our health care system.
During the 2004 presidential primaries, the conventional wisdom among Howard Dean’s energized supporters was that the over-the-top conservative attacks on the Vermont governor reflected the degree to which the right feared his nomination. With his blunt, plainspoken populism, the argument went at the time, Dean represented a threat to the Bush administration’s prospects for re-election that his more polished Democratic opponents lacked.
Five years later, and it may be the “disease care” industry — now spending $1.4 million each and every day to lobby lawmakers against implementing significant health reforms — that may be sweating Dean’s simple, but uncompromising, brand of politics.
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.
Joshua Holland: In your new book, you offer a prescription for fixing our ailing health care system. You lay out the scope of the crisis really well, both in human terms and in terms of the costs — the financial burdens our system places on households and firms. And like the plan that Obama has laid out, like the Hacker Plan, your prescription revolves around a robust public health insurance option. Can you explain in a nutshell what that is — what that looks like?
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. Continue reading »