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December 18, 2005

Hackett! on Health Care!

By Neil the Ethical Werewolf

For a long time, I was unsettled by Paul Hackett's lack of any clear statements on health care.  He had the right positions on abortion and gay marriage, but he wrapped them and his gun control views in a sort of brash libertarian rhetoric that got me worried.  Sure, it was a good way to sell these positions to the unconvinced and not sound wimpy, but did his libertarianism extend to the economic sphere?  Would he dismiss good health care proposals as "socialized medicine" and insist on market based-solutions that have left America with an overpriced and dysfunctional system? 

His recent Meet the Bloggers interview has me all happy.  He goes out of his way to talk about the need for health care reform, uses our favorite s-word, and praises Norway.  (Norway?  Norway!)   It's a long interview, so I've excerpted the coolest parts below.

At the beginning, he gets a sort of wacky question: "what will you do to kind of bring economic development for arts and culture when you get elected to the Senate?"  And what does he do with it?  Well, he uses it to go off on health care:

Economic development.  I’ve got this crazy notion about economic development and that it’s all rooted in health care.  And that health care should not be that complicated of a solution.  And that as Democrats, Republicans, Ohioans and just citizens of the United States, we have to look to what Europe has done and take the best of what they’ve done and incorporate it.  The sooner we incorporate it into our country and solve the health care issue, the better off the economy is going to be able to become.  From a selfish point of view, suddenly Ohio is going to look like a good deal because we’ve solved a major problem for industry in the United States.

I think that’s the starting point.  I’m convinced of it.  That is the starting point for any sort of Ohio or nationwide revitalization of our industry.  With that said, I don’t think that the industry, if you will, the old heavy industry of the last century is going to be the new industry.  But maybe it’s going to be stem cell research or maybe it’s going to be some sort of pharmaceutical.  Or maybe it’s going to be silicon related.  Those are going to be the jobs that are going to revitalize this state, but those corporations are smart and savvy as all are and that’s going to be the first draw.  I mean, I just think it’s at the root of all problems economically is the lack of a health care plan in the United States.

He sees the magnitude of the problem.  He likes how they're doing it in Europe.  And he spends his wacky-question talk-about-whatever-you-like moment on this.  On the downside, he kind of rambles a bit, but it's just an interview. 

The next question begins:

My blog is FaggotyAssFaggot.com, which tends to get into a lot of gay issues.

That doesn't really have anything to do with health care, but I thought it was kind of funny.  Moving on:

Gerardo Orlando: Back to health care. You mentioned getting the best out of the European system. What exactly do you mean by that? Are you talking about single payer because many people would argue that by getting the best out of their system, the government covering everybody, you’re going to get stuck with the worst as well, which is either holding back innovation and also the spotty health care or the long waits, etc.

Paul Hackett: I think to take exception with that, I don’t think that that is a serious risk if you look at it closely. I think that tends to be the Republican rhetoric. I think single payer is part of it. I think private industries and individuals who want to opt out of it as long as they provide it, needs to be integrated in it as well. But, in the final analysis, there’s no reason why, particularly given the amount of taxes that we do pay, that we as Americans should not expect that. The health care systems in Europe are good. They’re damn good. They’re every bit as good as ours.

Gerardo Orlando: I don’t – well, you really think so?

Paul Hackett: Yeah, I do.  Look at Norway.

Gerardo Orlando: My cousin’s a surgeon in Italy. He does transplant surgery. So he was flying around the country picking up organs. In Italy and Milan, it’s as good as it is here. If you go to southern Italy, he said it’s no better than a third world country, the public hospitals. People who have money go to private clinics, but the private hospitals there are a mess. So, I don’t think you can completely discount the fact that there’s some down side to having that —

Paul Hackett: I don’t. But I would argue that we’ve got the same disparity throughout America, regionally. Look at Norway. If you step back and you look at the overall health of Europeans. I mean, they’re living healthier lives than we are. We’ve got to get smart. We’ve got to look at their systems that they’ve had in place, in some cases, many decades. We’ve got to smartly adopt the best of those systems and make them the American system.

Gerardo Orlando: What did you think of Kerry’s plan where –?

Paul Hackett: When did he unroll it?  Did he unroll it after I left?

Gerardo Orlando: Unfortunately in the campaign, the media focused so much on the horse race, they paid very little attention to health care policies. His point was that the government should be responsible for catastrophic care. So, anything above $75,000 a year, the government would pick that up. And the result of that would be that insurance policies would go down in cost significantly because insurance carriers would not be subject to liability beyond a certain point.

Paul Hackett: Well, I’m not trying to evade that question, but getting back to a question you asked me about leadership and I mentioned Teddy Roosevelt. I think it’s time that we have a president that is geared up to bust the private health care trust system. And it’s a trust. What is Frist’s operation? HCA? I mean, the largest private hospital system in the United States. There are regions in the United States now where the only hospital that’s within a footprint is a private hospital and they won’t take people who are unable to pay or don’t have insurance.

So, I think that the answer lies in a system that assures that all Americans have health care and that maybe there is, through economic analysis, there’s a sliding scale of what we as taxpayers have to pay to be a part of that. And I think in the spirit of the United States, there can be those who opt out and pay on their own. And I’m not afraid of the boogey man that rich people are going to get better health care than poor people. I mean, first of all that’s the case already. So, I don’t think it’s going to get worse. And I think we need to view this issue as an impediment to our continued economic growth, an impediment to our ability to stay competitive throughout the world. Because the European Union is far ahead of us in solving this problem. If we want to stay competitive from an economic point of view, we’ve got to figure it out because it’s killing us.

I mean, look at private health insurance and private health care. The cost of managing those systems is in the 25 percent range. So, 25 percent of your expenses are for overhead. Well, in the Medicare system it’s like five percent. So, I stop right there and I say, I don’t buy off on big government gets everything wrong. Big government doesn’t get everything wrong. There’s a reason that government is good. Thematically it gets back to my point of why are we as Democrats constantly apologizing for the great things that we’ve developed in our party. Social security and health care should be one of those.

He vigorously defends the Europeans, positively mentions single payer health care, endorses universal coverage, displays familiarity with the exorbitant overhead costs imposed by our private system, and says that big government can solve problems!  Never more shall I worry that he's an economic libertarian.  This interview doesn't just have positive implications for his views on health care, but on the whole package of Democratic domestic policy initiatives.  He may not always be totally on top of things, but I don't need him to be the guy who designs the plan that leads us out of our current health care dystopia.  I just need him to be the guy who votes for it. 

December 18, 2005 in Health Care | Permalink

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Comments

Good info, Neil. The whole "European healthcare systems suck" is a particular bailiwick of mine. After the horror stories about Britain's NHS I'd always heard, I found it to be absolutely as good as the American medical system while I was living in Scotland. Yes, there are long wait times in some areas (although I never experienced one), but there are long wait times for a lot of Americans, too. And not a single Brit ever has to worry about how to pay for her or his healthcare.

Btw, FaggotyAssFaggot is a great blog.

Posted by: Shakespeare's Sister | Dec 18, 2005 4:32:10 PM

What I find funny about the complaint that European and Canadian health care isn't as good as that in the US is that a hell of a lot of people in the US don't have health insurance at all. I'm sure they're glad to know that those who can afford it don't have to wait too long in line, but I can't help but suspect that someone with no health insurance might prefer the European system as opposed to, you know, nothing.

Posted by: Dadahead | Dec 18, 2005 4:41:18 PM

When I was doing my Prospect piece on the Hackett/Brown race I chatted with him about health care for a bit and was very impressed. Not with his policy knowledge, of course, but with his ability to frame the issue as a question of economic competitiveness. I'm glad to see him making the case to the wider world. Two things:

1) Norway? Where are they coming from?

2) Don't forget, Brown is about the best Democrat in the country on health care. Like Hackett, he'll vote for the right policies, but probably unlike Hackett, he's a good bet to be the guy writing them. To get an idea of his commitment, take a look at the ordering on his issues page or read his bio.

End result? We've got two Democrats who're awesome on the issue running this race. My hunch is that Sherrod is the better of the two choices on health as it's a genuine obsession for him, but neither one offers reason to be concerned.

Posted by: Ezra | Dec 18, 2005 6:19:15 PM

Shakes, that's a pet peeve of mine, too. The whole "waiting in line" argument only makes sense if you've never been poor a day in your life. I spent a couple of years with poor health and no health insurance, and there's pretty much no way it gets worse than trying to get basic health care under those circumstances. (Exception: Planned Parenthood had awesome services.) Talk about loooooong waits for substandard services.

Bitching about European health care only makes sense if the underlying assumption of your argument is that even basic health care is a privilege that should be reserved on an ability to pay basis. But even then, it doesn't make sense. If you're rich and want the shinier, cooler health care than the poor get, I don't see that the law would prevent you from paying for it out of pocket.

Posted by: Amanda Marcotte | Dec 18, 2005 7:26:04 PM

Or, basically what Dadahead said.

Posted by: Amanda Marcotte | Dec 18, 2005 7:27:22 PM

Shakes, I just checked out the good Mr. Faggot, and I'm pretty impressed.

Dadahead, I wonder how the Republicans feel about conceding most uninsured voters to us. Probably they don't mind it, and figure that they can scare off the insured classes with their anti-big-government rhetoric.

Yeah, Ezra, I have no idea about the Norway thing either.

You made me aware of Brown's awesomeness on the issue, especially regarding him not taking his congressional health care package as a protest against the screwed-up system. I hope one of these guys is still in position for running against Voinovich in 2010.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Dec 18, 2005 7:35:40 PM

Dadahead, I wonder how the Republicans feel about conceding most uninsured voters to us. Probably they don't mind it, and figure that they can scare off the insured classes with their anti-big-government rhetoric.

Good point. They've probably already lost those votes. Meanwhile, they've managed to convince the rest that the last thing they want is a government agency telling them what doctor they can see. MUCH better to have an HMO tell you that.

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