Al Franken is running for Norm Coleman’s seat in Minnesota, and doing well. Franken has opposed the troop surge and has been a vocal critic of the Iraq war for years. He believes that pensions and Social Security should be protected. He wants to cut tax breaks for oil companies, increase money available for college students and cut interest rates on student loans. Here is his stand on Universal Health Care:
We need to go to universal health care as soon as possible.Health care is at the center of almost every public policy issue – from veterans’ affairs to small business to personal finances (nearly half of all bankruptcies are caused by a medical crisis in the family). Access to affordable health care should come with living in the world’s richest, most advanced nation.
But during the Bush administration, the number of Americans living without health insurance has grown from 39.8 million in 2000 to 46.6 million as of the most recent Census Bureau data (2005). That includes 21.5 million people who work full time.
Especially disturbing is that the number of children without health insurance actually grew to 8.3 million in 2005. Children who lack health insurance are more likely to miss school and 70% less likely to get treated for an ear infection.
Overall, we spend 16% of our GDP on health care – nobody else spends more than 11%. Yet every other industrialized country insures 100% of its people, while we leave tens of millions without coverage. We spend 34% of our health care dollars on administrative costs – nobody else spends more than 19%. And in the most recent ranking by the World Health Organization, the U.S. ranked 37th, right between Costa Rica and Slovenia.
Here’s where I stand:
We need to go to universal health care.
A single-payer system would be the most effective in terms of reducing administrative costs, and I would be thrilled to support such a system. But I believe that today’s political environment requires a creative and flexible approach to covering every American. Here’s mine:
- I would require every state to cover every one of its citizens, and the federal government to provide funding to fulfill that requirement. Each individual state would be free to offer a variety of options, as long as they add up to universal coverage, giving us 51 laboratories (if you count DC) to figure out which system works best.
- I would add one constraint: each state must cover every child 18 and under with a single-payer system similar to Medicare.
- And speaking of Medicare, I would fight to make Medicare a true single-payer system. Right now, we overpay insurance companies, who then turn around and cherry-pick only the healthiest seniors to cover. That’s not fair and we should change it.
But universal coverage isn’t enough. We must also address the quality and cost of care. I think we should start with the following measures:
- Medicare should be allowed to negotiate with the pharmaceutical companies for lower prices on prescription drugs.
- Simple, secure, electronic medical records would cut down on errors and streamline care.
- We should establish safe staffing levels for nurses – when the people on the front lines of health care tell us that they need reinforcements to maintain their high standards of care, we should listen.
- We should pass Paul Wellstone’s bill ensuring full mental health parity.