FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Interview: Dennis Kucinich On Why Single-Payer is Inevitable

Photo by ben caulfield | CC BY 2.0

Progressives and Bernie Sanders Supporters are continuing to lead efforts in support of a single payer healthcare system in contrast to Republicans pushing for Obamacare repeal that would increase premiums and relegate millions of Americans to the already 28 million Americans who have no health insurance. The supposition that healthcare is a human right and should be provided to every American is at the center of this movement, but the Democratic Party leadership has been reluctant to formally co-sponsor a Medicare for All bill introduced by Congressman John Conyers. Republicans recently introduced single payer healthcare to a vote as a troll to the Democratic Party, poking fun at the proposal why trying to highlight the divisions among Democrats in supporting the policy. The stunt was ignored, and Obamacare repeal efforts floundered in the Senate once again, but the fight for Medicare for All continues to gain support and momentum.

“A single payer system is inevitable. That’s the first thing, this is inevitable. But just because something’s inevitable doesn’t mean that it will happen without an effort and that it will happen in time to help the mass of American people who are looking for better options than they have now,” said former Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) in an interview with the Observer. Kucinich, who served eight terms in congress from 1997 to 2013, and often introduced ahis own single payer Medicare for all healthcare bill with Congressman Conyers while he served in congress. “When I worked with a number of physicians connected with Harvard to draft a bill, John Conyers and I worked together, he was the prime sponsor. And what I did and this was my roll, I went to the floor of the house and I lobbied members of Congress endlessly, just kept at it day after day after day.” Kucinich managed to get 90 co-sponsors at the time to support the bill, with that number now reaching 115 Democrats in the House of Representatives co-sponsoring, but leading voices in Congress, like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) have abstained from getting behind it.

“People don’t want health insurance as much as they want health assurance,” Kucinich continued  “The first time I ran for Congress in 1972 I brought this issue forward, mindful of the work that Ted Kennedy was doing at the time. I actually made the foolishly arrogant statement back then that if the American Medical Association which had supported the person I ran against, if they were really smart they’d make sure that I didn’t get elected that I wouldn’t be their guy, that I would be working for a single payer system. And of course I basically invited them to come in which they did and drop a lot of money in a campaign that I ended up losing by a little more than 1% at age 25 I might add.”  He added, ” so this is an issue that I’ve been close to. But through the years, here’s what I’ve learned. A couple principals. I think the first and most important principal is the government cannot give you health care. It can’t give you health. They can pay the bills but they can’t give you health. And the second thing is that each one of us has to take a measure of responsibility for what we eat, what we drink, the effect if has on ourselves and others. I mean there is an element of personal responsibility here which almost never gets discussed but it needs to be. And the third thing is prevention. The government ought to be investing in prevention. The next thing is that no market-based system of health care will survive. It’s impossible. Premiums will continue to escalate, co-pays will go up, exclusions will increase and you’ll end up with only those who are well-off financially being able to pay their bills, but even then the number of health expense bankruptcies will continue to escalate.”

He cited that mental health, dental health,  vision care, prescription drug costs and the ability for Medicare to negotiate drug prices, and long-term care for the elderly needs to be incorporated into discussions on healthcare and included in a single-payer healthcare plan. “It’s not difficult to understand that in our modern society, there are many people who are having difficulty coping, whether the incidence of drugs, opioid abuse or alcoholism continues on the rise, or just the every day stress of life, increasing suicides in certain demographic groups such as very young women and middle-aged men points to a society that’s creating enormous pressure for individuals. And so we have to make part of the guarantees of a health care system full coverage for emental health for all visits,” he said. “Then you go to the issue of dental health which is connected to overall physical health. That has to be part of the guarantee of a national system because you have so many people and it’s well known that the connection between dental health and overall physical health is exact.” Kucinich noted the case of Deamonte Driver in Maryland, a 12 year-old who died from a toothache infection in 2007. ”

“We have a Baby Boomer generation that is going into its elderly years. Some will not be able to care for themselves if they’re lucky enough to approach their late eighties and early nineties. I mean in some quarters, 80 is the new 60. But the truth is unless somebody has living family to help them as they get older, there’s a tremendous burden that’s put on family budgets when someone needs nursing care in their later years. And you think of the dilemma that families face today where everything they’ve ever worked for they have to put on the table to assure care for a loved one. It’s really heart breaking. So inevitably the nest thing they had, they saved up, the home that they live in, family treasures that have commercial value, all those things being capitalized for the sake of paying for nursing care.”

Polls have shown the majority of Americans support a single-payer healthcare system, with recent trends signaling that support is growing. Even so, several Democratic Party elected officials have dismissed or excused the policy platform. “It would not be good to spend our time focusing on what happens a few years from now,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) told Vox in an interview. “We’ll have plenty of time to debate what bill we’ll craft once we get control back.” Similar consensus has been expressed from several top Democrats when pressed on the issue.

“We can’t be sitting around worrying about what might happen, we have to make things happen. And if I’ve learned anything about Congress is that there is a paradox of people who are in some of the most powerful positions in our society feel powerless to deal with these big questions. And yet each member of Congress does have real impact on the long-term health of the country. One of the complicating factors is the amount of money that comes from various interests who are promoting the current system and they try to use that to hold members hostage. But when one considers the broader claims of our constituents, this current system cannot meet the diverse health needs of America,” explained Kucinich. “And people have to know. I mean, there’s nobody in that Congress that isn’t personally affected by someone in their family who has an illness and the cost of it is extraordinary. Now members do have a pretty good insurance plan, but so should everyone else. Members do have the ability to have access to medical care almost 24/7. So should everyone else. And there was a member from Maryland a few years ago who talked about the effect of changing health care coverage, Donna Edwards, you may have read this story where she has a condition where she needs constant treatment and if she’s separated from that treatment, it’s going to impair her ability to live a quality standard of life.”

Though the majority of support for a single-payer healthcare system has come from Democrats, there has been some support for this type of system from Republicans. Fox News Contributor Charles Krauthammer predicted in May 2017 that the U.S. will have a single-payer system inevitably in seven years. On July 27 the American Conservative published an op-ed arguing a conservative case for a single-payer healthcare system, noting that it would drastically reduce costs and benefit the economy. Kucinich noted that its unsustainable to push for single-payer solely along partisan lines.  “One of the things that I want to share with you is an episode where I had a town hall meeting a few years ago. And afterwards, there was a couple who walked out of the meeting saying that they didn’t want government sponsored health care. Now remember the government pays the bills. I’m not talking about the government running hospitals, understand that. Government doesn’t run the hospitals but it pays the bills. So they were saying they didn’t want the government to be involved and one was on a walker, the other one was on a cane and both were pretty seriously overweight and had visible other health problems and were of the age where I assumed that they could be on both Medicare and Medicaid. But they were complaining about government sponsored health care. This ideological divide over health care is something we have to get past in order to protect the health of our nation. This is something that Americans should be uniting on. Disease doesn’t favor Democrats or Republicans and we have to have more independent thinking on this health care matter which isn’t bound by partisanship or financial connections or lobbyists or whatever.” He added, ” The partisan approach to health care cannot succeed and people are looking for more independent-minded representatives who are not tied to the inevitable, self-defeating partisan infighting. So that’s all part of yesterday’s approach to governance. We really have to look to the future which is going to be healthy for the American people and that will require some changes in the way members of Congress approach this issue. And I think that’s possible because the one thing that you have to remember is that our system provides for a representative government and the people who are involved at some level do represent their constituents. We can all aspire to represent our constituents in a way that is more effective and I think that will happen.”

More articles by:

Michael Sainato’s writing has appeared in the Guardian, Miami Herald, Baltimore Sun, Denver Post, Buffalo News, the Hill, Alternet, and several other publications . Follow him on twitter: @MSainat1

January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail