Howard Dean on the Politics of Health-Care Reform
By Kate Pickert | Tuesday, Jul. 21, 2009
TIME: How optimistic are you that both houses of Congress will pass health-reform bills before the August recess, as President Obama is pushing for?
Dean: I'm very hopeful the House will pass a bill. I think it's going to be very hard for the Senate. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee passed a very good bill. The Senate Finance Committee has been unable to reach a bipartisan agreement, which doesn't surprise me. Frankly, I think the Republicans have no interest in reaching one. I've long believed the Democrats are going to be on their own.
What are the potential pitfalls if the Democrats are on their own?
I think it's a very good thing. I think the Republicans have correctly diagnosed that the way to stop Obama is to stop the health-care bill. They're determined not to have a bill. In the long run, we're going to have to do this on our own. (See the top 10 health-care-reform players.)
But even if Congress passes the health-care-reform legislation that Obama wants, it will take years to implement. Can the Democrats change things fast enough that health care won't be a liability for Obama if and when he runs for re-election?
Absolutely. Put in guaranteed issue and community rating at once, so people cannot be turned down for insurance in the private sector, nor can they have their insurance taken away because of an illness. He'll get huge credit for that and there's no budgetary cost.
Read the whole article here.
Howard Dean, John Podesta, J. David Cox, Ed Towns, and Rick Perlstein
Friday July 3, 2009
Blog for Democracy.org
Dean defies the stereotypes
By Tom Crawford on July 11, 2009 10:51 AM
Q: What do we call you? Doctor or governor?
Dean: Most anything you want - and most people do. Just not my soulmate.
Q: Are you still confident that a healthcare plan with a public option will actually pass Congress?
Dean: I am confident. You know, you've got to work at it every day and there's always something going on in the Senate that gets you worried, that's the nature of politics . . . Eventually the Senate will come around. I think the support is there, I really do. I think it will pass.
Q: Why insist on a public option?
Dean: You can't control costs without a public option . . . We're not forcing anybody out of what they have. If they like it, they can keep it. You're not forcing anybody into a government health insurance program.
We're starting from where we are, not from where people wish we were. Americans are conservative, with a small "c." They say they want change, but they don't want as much as they say they want.
Why shouldn't we give people a choice? The campaign isn't just about fixing healthcare, it's about letting American people have a say about what they want. We're going to give them a choice of two different systems. We have Medicare and we have private health insurance. Give people a choice. Let people decide for themselves.
The Republican Party now is clearly struggling with the fact that they're ideological and their loyalty is more to their ideology than to their constituents. [Polls show 72 percent support for healthcare reform.] It's a big problem for Republicans. The conservative lawmakers of Georgia are ignoring public opinion, that's what they're doing, because they favor ideology and the health insurance industry over what the citizens of Georgia want. Eventually, that'll catch up to them.
Read the whole interview here.
Interview with Howard Dean, Former DNC Chairman
September 23, 2009
…Your new book is Howard Dean's Prescription for Real Health Care Reform. First of all is this prescription your own or is this more or less identical with legislation currently in Congress? Well, it's similar. It's based partly on the plan that I put forth in 2004, and very much based on Obama's plan that he had during the campaign. His plan was really an excellent plan, and I go into that in great detail in the book. The book is a lot of fun. First of all, it's plain English. Second of all, it's co-written by two people from the Center for American Progress who know a huge number of details about health care and could fact-check it all. And third of all, it's a great resource book at 133 pages, where it doesn't just tell you about what's going on here, it tells you how other countries' health care systems work, and how to contact your congresspeople to get them to do what you want.
Are there any things which you think your book asks for that don't seem to be on the table right now in Washington? Well one thing that's not on the table which I clearly admit is that I think we ought to pay for it using a carbon tax. It's much simpler. And as you know it's still not impossible. They're getting all twisted up now around how to pay for the thing. A carbon tax is much easier. I think cap-and-trade is in trouble in the Senate and a carbon tax would have the same effect as cap-and-trade, and would also be able to draw off a lot of revenues for health care.
Do you think that Obama is the kind of person who would tackle two giant things at once? Health care reform and climate change? He already has, the climate change bill has already gone through the House with cap-and-trade, and he has made it very clear that that's up next.
Right, but not with a carbon tax? Yes, but I'm not going to get into a critique of everything the administration doesn't do: except health care reform without a public option. You know without a public option it's really a waste of money.
Why would it be waste of money? Because we're basically putting $60 billion dollars a year into the system we already have which got us to where we are today.
And it would require people to have health insurance, but that would allow companies to charge as much as they wanted because they would have a captive audience? Yeah, exactly. I mean, if they don't pass that with a public option, it's an extremely foolish bill. Massachusetts is proof. Massachusetts has got something called universal access, which is wonderful. There are no cost controls of any kind.
And what have been the results there? Great coverage and the most expensive rates in the country.
Democrats have the necessary numerical majorities. What or who would stop a straight party-line vote to make this happen? Well as you know there are a lot of people in our party, well not a lot, some people in our party who are very much beholden to the health insurance industry, and that's obviously a problem.
Are there someone whose arms you're twisting? I know on your website Mary Landrieu comes in for some pressure. That's not my website. That's the Democracy for America website, I'm just a consultant to them. I generally have not gone after other Democrats. Which isn't to say that I won't. We'll have to see how they all vote. Right now I'm giving everybody the benefit of the doubt and hoping that they're going to do the right thing in the end.
Read the whole interview here.
Howard Dean: "This Is Ridiculous. We're 60 Years Behind the Times" on Fixing Health Care
By Joshua Holland, AlterNet. Posted July 8, 2009.
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 place.
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.
JH: Now, you note that the debate has shifted over the years, from “how do we cover the uninsured?” to “how do we contain out-of-control costs?” So, in terms of this public insurance option, it’ll result in a very large insurance pool, which will give it the ability to negotiate better prices and cut down on overhead. Can you just give me a little bit more on other ways that it might help contain costs?
HD: Well, there are two ways it contains costs. The first is that, of course, it’s a huge pool. The second is, in terms of containing costs for ordinary Americans, [Medicare] can’t and won’t engage in the kinds of things that private insurance companies do. They don’t have bureaucrats who second-guess doctors and make bad medical decisions. They don’t pay extraordinary amounts of money for repeat procedures — at least they do that less than the private sector does. They don’t pay chief executives in the seven-, eight- or nine-figure range for their salaries. They don’t have to advertise.
So it’s much cheaper and more effective and efficient to control costs if you have a large public option. And the other thing about this is that the American people get to choose. You know, the Republicans are screaming and yelling about socialized medicine. Well, let the American people choose — if they don’t like it they won’t choose it.
JH: Okay, that brings me right to my next question. You don’t pull any punches when you describe insurance companies’ practices. You say that they have mutually exclusive goals in protecting their shareholders and maximizing profits and their responsibility to give their customers good service. Now, in the book you cite an estimate that around 115 million people would remain with their employer-based insurance if a public option were added to the mix. Can you help me understand how the addition of a public insurance program with, say, 80 million people in it would change the behaviors of the insurance companies as it relates to the 115 million who will remain with their current insurance?
HD: Well, ultimately what’s going to happen — first of all, employer-based insurance with large companies is better than the individual market because it’s already community rated with guaranteed issue — that is, you cannot kick people out of their health insurance once they get sick, which many of these companies do, and you have to accept all comers.
Second, if the companies don’t do their job in the employer-based system, there will be a lot of public clamor to change their insurance over to the public option. Now that is, of course, what the Republicans are terrified of. But in my view, and in the president’s view as well, why not keep the insurance companies operating in a more consumer-friendly way and give the people a choice? That’s what competition is all about — it’s giving people choices to do what’s in their best interest.
Read the whole article here.
July 7, 2009, 8:58 AM
Howard Dean: Private Health Care Is Breaking Our Economy
And the Republicans are all a bunch of liars. And Washington is as scared of change as a cult. And other things you'd expect Howard Dean to say in a hot-button debate. Except, when it comes to this particular hot-button debate, Howard Dean really knows what he's talking about. And so should you.
By John H. Richardson
As Congress debates health-care reform, the arguments against a "public option" are coming fast and furious. The best I've read recently is from Greg Manikow, the distinguished Harvard economist and former Bush advisor who insists that the public option will inevitably crowd out private insurance companies, resulting in less competition and poorer health care. Manikow reminded me of how quickly the efficiencies of private military contractors like Blackwater crushed the socialists in the United States Army, how the option of great public beaches in New York drove all Connecticut elite from their Buffy-and-Muffy-only private beach clubs to the boardwalks of Coney Island, and how the wealthy rushed from their Park Avenue penthouses to take advantage of the great deals in Section 8 housing.
For an alternate point of view, however, I consulted the former governor of Vermont. As a doctor married to a doctor, Howard Dean made health care a priority of his administration, putting strict regulations on health insurance profiteering and figuring out a way to extend insurance to every child in the state. In a new book called Howard Dean's Prescription for Real Health Care Reform, he makes a persuasive case for reform.
ESQUIRE: Your book really lays everything out in a very simple, clear way. It's obvious this is something you've been thinking about for a long time.
HOWARD DEAN: It was one of the reasons I ran for president.
ESQ: One thing I've never seen before is when you say, "Much is made of the 47 million without insurance, but nothing of the 25 million who have insurance but don't go and see the doctor." I've got one of those high-deductible catastrophic plans myself, so I don't go to the doctor unless I'm bleeding. Why have I never seen this argument before?
HD: Because 99 percent of the discussions among reporters, policy wonks, and politicians focus on the uninsured — which is, frankly, why nothing is passed. They don't focus on the majority of Americans who have health insurance that doesn't work.
Vermont Public Radio Blog
Friday, June 12, 2009
Howard Dean on healthcare reform, today on Vermont Edition
Listen to the full interview of Howard Dean by VPR's Bob Kinzel here.
Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean was the guest today on Vermont Edition. Gov. Dean discusses his new book, "Howard Dean's Prescription for Real Healthcare Reform." Dean also reveals why, after seven years of silence, he is speaking out against the Douglas Administration's policies for the Housing and Conservation Fund and the Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Fund.
Posted by Jonathan Butler at 1:55 PM
The Brian Lehrer Show
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Howard Dean, former Vermont governor, former DNC chairman, and former candidate for president discusses the health care proposals in Washington and other news.