Jill Stein on Health Care
Green Party presidential nominee; Former Challenger for MA Governor
Donald Trump: ObamaCare will never work. It's too expensive, and not only expensive for the person that has it, unbelievably expensive for our country. We have to repeal it. We have to get rid of the lines around the state, where we stop insurance companies from competing. We want competition. She wants to go to a single-payer plan, which would be a disaster.
Jill Stein: We need a Medicare-for-all system. 25 percent of healthcare costs are spent on wasteful paper pushing, on CEO salaries, on advertising, on exorbitant pharmaceutical costs like paying $400 for an EpiPen, which contains $1 worth of medication. Under an improved Medicare, that 25 percent overhead is reduced to 1 percent. It enables us to put our healthcare dollars truly into healthcare, so that you are covered, head to toe, cradle to grave.
STEIN: Vaccines are a critical part of our public health system. Vaccines prevent serious epidemics that would cause harm to many people and that is why they are a foundation to a strong public health system. Polio is an important example. So is H Flu--a bacteria that caused serious illness, including meningitis, in 20,000 children a year in the US, before development of the H flu vaccine. We need universal health care as a right to ensure that everyone has access to critical vaccines. The best way to overcome resistance to vaccination is to acknowledge and address concerns and build trust with hesitant parents. We can do that by removing corporate influence from our regulatory agencies to eliminate apparent conflicts of interest and show skeptics, in this case vaccine-resistant parents, that the motive behind vaccination is protecting their children's health, not increasing profits for pharmaceutical companies.
JILL STEIN: As part of a Medicare for All universal health care system we need a mental health care system that safeguards human dignity, respects individual autonomy, and protects informed consent. In addition to full funding for mental health care, this means making it easier for the chronically mentally ill to apply for and receive Supplemental Security Income, and funding programs to increase public awareness of and sensitivity to the needs of the mentally ill and differently abled.
We must ensure that the government takes all steps necessary to fully diagnose and treat the mental health conditions resulting from service in combat zones, including post- traumatic stress disorder. We will also release prisoners with diagnosed mental disorders to secure mental health treatment centers, and ensure psychological and medical care and rehabilitation services for mentally ill prisoners.
Clinton argues we can simply expand the Affordable Care Act to achieve universal coverage, which we view as impossible. Sanders is on target with his new Medicare-for-all proposal. However, by preserving the illusion that the ACA is a "step in the right direction," Sanders misses the point that the current U.S. health care system under the ACA is unique among industrialized nations because it treats health care as a commodity rather than a public good.
Stein: The answer is a Medicare-for-All system. Much of what motivates large settlements is the need to pay for a lifetime of chronic care. With healthcare as a human right, you no longer need to go to court to assure coverage.
OnTheIssues: How would you implement that, given that ObamaCare is here to stay?
Stein: New Zealand uses no fault malpractice insurance--there is no requirement to find intention or fault-- and no need to create a villain when dealing with just statistical risks--and they have much smaller settlements. That is something we might want to look into, but the definitive answer is Medicare-for-All. Court settlement is an important safeguard against abuse and incompetence--that right should not be curtailed--but no-fault and Medicare-for-All is the main answer. If there are to be any changes in the way the courts work, the focus should be on speeding up the process.
Stein: It could become an issue again with SARS--we live in an age of globalized health. Threats to public health are threats to public health everywhere. We need to pay attention to incredible health injustice and enormous health disparities and address them--or they are going to come back to bite us. We need to ensure a basic level of public health and infrastructure around the world--we need to be doing that instead of bombing abroad and exporting weapons--we should replace the export of goods with the export of health & education & green energy technology. We need to treat the world like we are part of a common human family--which we are.
OnTheIssues: And travel restrictions like Chris Christie enforced for Ebola?
Stein: Travel restrict need to be established by health authorities as a technical issue by people who understand the disease. What Christie did was fear-mongering--entirely what we don't want to do
Health Care as a Right: Establish an improved "Medicare For All" single-payer public health insurance program to provide everyone with quality health care, at huge savings.
It was also documented by Cuba when their oil pipeline went down. Without changing their health-care system, when they zeroed out their fossil fuel emissions, Cuba got healthy. It was not only reduction of emissions; it was also that they transitioned to a sustainable and healthy food system, and a sustainable and healthy transportation system, and those are essentially the underpinnings of modern disease--between pollution and a poisonous, predatory food system and passive transportation.
She is the co-author of two widely-praised reports, "In Harm's Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development," published in 2000, and "Environmental Threats to Healthy Aging," published in 2009. The first of these has been translated into four languages and is used worldwide. The reports promote green local economies, sustainable agriculture, clean power, and freedom from toxic threats.
Her "Healthy People, Healthy Planet" teaching program reveals the links between human health, climate security, and green economic revitalization. This body of work has been presented at government, public health and medical conferences, and has been used to improve public policy.
STEIN: We are squandering trillions of dollars over the coming decade on a massive, wasteful health insurance, private health insurance bureaucracy. By moving to a single-payer, Medicare-for-all system, we get a system that people love and want to defend from government tampering, and that system covers everyone comprehensively, puts you back in charge of your healthcare, and, in addition, it actually saves us trillions over the coming decade, equivalent to that austerity plan that they were talking about. What we have right now is 30% of every healthcare dollar is being spent on bureaucracy, red tape and paper pushing. Under Medicare, that 30% shrinks down to 2% to 3%. That's enough to cover everybody. And we deserve that.
STEIN: Both Obama and Romney-Ryan are both aiming for essentially for the same targets. For Medicare, they are both aiming for Medicare to be reduced to about 2.2% of GDP. A sign that things are not really different between these two corporate-sponsored candidates. They're both proposing about $700 billion in Medicare cuts. We can fix this. One thing we can do right now is to fix Medicare Part D so that it's no longer a boondoggle, a giveaway for pharmaceutical companies and to allow bargaining and negotiation to get bulk purchasing and bring down the cost.
ANDERSON: The solution to Medicare is to provide Medicare for everybody. To make it a single payer system.
STEIN: I live in the state of Massachusetts. So, I've seen RomneyCare or ObamaCare--take your pick--the Affordable Care Act actually in the flesh is neither affordable nor caring, because it provides stripped-down plans which are fairly expensive unless you are in a very low income. If you are making less than $20,000 a year as a family, you're covered. And it actually has expanded care for the very poor, and that is a good thing. But if you're in the $20,000-$40,000 bracket, near-poor, these plans cover about 70% of your costs; yet you are paying approximately 10% of your income for them. So, it's not affordable for families. You're not fully covered. The proof of the pudding here is that when people get sick in Massachusetts now, they go into medical bankruptcy just as much as they did before we had the Affordable Care Act.
A. Small time, sure. There are minor improvements. But on the other hand, he took single-payer off the table. He absolutely took a public option off the table. And how about bringing Wall Street in, the guys who created the problem, among his first appointments. It was pretty clear right then that this was going to be business as usual on steroids. We're certainly more equitable, or more healthy, with what Obama has brought.
A: I have always been involved in issue-based politics, not party politics--I was never really originally drawn to party politics. I'm trained as a medical doctor--that's my field: I've been practicing long enough to see how extremely broken our health care system is. I had become very active in the world of health care advocacy, advocating for single payer, but also in the world of environmental politics, and advocating for being a community provider of health. That's really the way to do it. If you really want people to remain healthy, you can't just throw pills at people once they become sick, which I feel like I was doing as a medical doctor, so I began working on more upstream thinking.I began thinking, "If only our elected officials knew that there were all of these cost-saving solutions ..." After five years I knew if you really want to fix any political problems, you also have to fix the political system.
A: Well, we have it in Massachusetts, since it's really modeled after RomneyCare, and it's very problematic. It is not a solution--it did extend care to some people who didn't have it, but kind of at the cost of working families. The costs are not fairly distributed; the mandate is extremely unfair; the system is entirely unsustainable, and it is not working. Many people say health care is worse than it is better under ObamaCare, which is remarkable because you don't know what the real problems of a health care system are until you get sick.
Q: Was ObamaCare a step forward?
A: I think it was a step backward for the final goal of a system of single payer health care.
Q: So do you support ObamaCare?
A: I don't support ObamaCare and see it as a step backward that entrenches the power of the private health care industry.
A: By reducing the 30% waste of healthcare spent on CEO salaries and wasteful bureaucracy. Streamline that and you have $400 billion in savings every year, and you can provide quality comprehensive healthcare for everyone. Add to that doing away with medical inflation, which is the biggest driver of rising healthcare cost. According to some economists, we could do way with the national debt simply by moving to a cost-effective healthcare system. There are trillions to be saved over the next decade by moving to a streamlined administrative system such as Medicare-For-All.
A: The government should be the provider, basically, but a quasi-government public entity, not necessarily the federal government directly. Definitely not the private sector. We should be broadening Medicare to reduce the outrageous waste of healthcare dollars--30% is now squandered on advertising, CEO salaries, and a very bloated wasteful bureaucracy.
There is a proven way to achieve all this while saving billions of dollars. It involves a Medicare-for-all system that pays for itself simply by cutting out the insurance company red tape. (It's sometimes called "single-payer," which means that all bills go to a single processing point--eliminating the costly and complex billing system required to submit claims to multiple private insurance providers, each following different rules).
Under single-payer, no one loses health insurance when they change jobs. And our health dollars are spent on better health care--not on insurance company red tape.
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