Chairman Dean on Health Care and Western Politics

Jeff Alworth

As Paulie Brading noted Friday, DNC chairman Howard Dean made a swing through Portland last week, rocking the house at Lewis and Clark College, energizing local party chairs, and even spending ten minutes talking to local bloggers. Dean In this case, Kari and me.  Ten minutes sounds like a short time until you start doing the math, and then you see that he'd have to bend time to talk to everyone who'd like their own ten minutes.  So we tried to keep it pointed and direct, and Dean, the old pro, gave meaty answers.  We transcribed his responses, and some excerpts are below. 

Health Care
With the Pew Research findings about how popular universal health care is among the electorate fresh in my mind, I asked Dean why he thought it wasn't playing a bigger role in the general campaign.

"Well, it’s only been a week since the Republican Convention, and all the Republicans want to talk about is lipstick. Barack spent this week talking about education. I think over the next couple weeks you’re going to see a very significant focus on health care and other issues that people care about. Barack is determined to run a campaign about issues that matter, and not to give into the Republicans. The Republicans don’t want to talk about John McCain, because John McCain is basically a guy with 170 lobbyists on staff, and is a guy from the generations past. So they’re going to do everything they can to avoid talking about John McCain. Whether it’s about Palin or lipstick or whatever else. Barack wants to stick to the issues, so health care is definitely going to be a big piece of the campaign. He wants to do education and he spent this week doing that, and in the next couple weeks you’ll see an intense focus on health care."

You heard it here first: health care will be a major issue in the next couple weeks.  Dean also added that he's a big fan of Obama's health care plan, and that as chairman, he's been asked to discuss it many times.  He also added this final observation, which seems ad-ready: " I do think it’s going to be a big issue, because McCain voted against even children’s health care."

Western Politics
Just after the 2004 election, I was sitting in a pu bwith Kari, and he was musing on how Dems seemed to be missing an opportunity in the west.  He looked at how Brian Schweitzer won in Montana by four points even while Kerry lost by 20.  (By the end of the month, he'd founded Western Democrat.)  Howard Dean, the incoming Chairman, also noticed this and launched his then-controversial fifty-state strategy.  So we checked in with Dean on how the Western strategy was going.

"We’re ahead in New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado right now. We think the road to the White House leads through the west, and if we win those three states, I think Barack Obama will be the next president. [Even] Montana is in play.  We're only down two there."

He went on to point out that the Obama campaign is in tune with the fifty-state strategy. 

"What Barack is trying to accomplish is something Bush willfully chose not to do. Barack wants to be president of all America, not just the half that agrees with him. The reason he’s adopted the fifty-state strategy is because he wants to be the president even of people who don’t agree with him so he can reunify the country. That’s what I find so refreshing, a candidate that wants to bring people together instead of what McCain is doing by driving them apart. So being a player in every region of the country matters: North Carolina, Virginia is in play, there’s the western states that we talked about that are in play—and that hasn’t happened for a long, long time. And I think that’s the kind of President Barack Obama will be, someone who cares about all the American people, not just those who agree with him."

I thought it was classy that Dean didn't blow his own horn about the fifty-state strategy, but let me make sure someone does: without that controversial plan, it's unlikely Dems would be in the Senate majority.  The strategy is controversial no more and it's nice to see how congruent the party and the nominee are on this whole-nation approach.

Tomorrow I'll post the last part of the interview, where Dean talks about the US Senate race.

  • deena larsen (unverified)

    I like Obama's ideas. Barack Obama's Plan Quality, Affordable and Portable Coverage for All

    * Obama's Plan to Cover Uninsured Americans: Obama will make available a new national health plan to all Americans, including the self-employed and small businesses, to buy affordable health coverage that is similar to the plan available to members of Congress. The Obama plan will have the following features:
         1. Guaranteed eligibility. No American will be turned away from any insurance plan because of illness or pre-existing conditions.
         2. Comprehensive benefits. The benefit package will be similar to that offered through Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), the plan members of Congress have. The plan will cover all essential medical services, including preventive, maternity and mental health care.
         3. Affordable premiums, co-pays and deductibles.
         4. Subsidies. Individuals and families who do not qualify for Medicaid or SCHIP but still need financial assistance will receive an income-related federal subsidy to buy into the new public plan or purchase a private health care plan.
         5. Simplified paperwork and reined in health costs.
         6. Easy enrollment. The new public plan will be simple to enroll in and provide ready access to coverage.
         7. Portability and choice. Participants in the new public plan and the National Health Insurance Exchange (see below) will be able to move from job to job without changing or jeopardizing their health care coverage.
         8. Quality and efficiency. Participating insurance companies in the new public program will be required to report data to ensure that standards for quality, health information technology and administration are being met.
  • Greg D. (unverified)

    Health care is a huge concern to the voters, but I don't think either party really wants the voters to focus on their position, so I doubt it will become a front page issue. McCain wants to banish employer-provided health care, which should - but probably won't - outrage everyone who is fortunate enough to still have employer coverage. But as far as I can tell, Obama's private insurance proposals do not offer much to those who can't afford traditional coverage. Portability, universal access, etc. etc. etc. are not going to provide coverage to the 40 million people without coverage. Young people will continue to gamble on good health. Poor people will continue to rely on emergency rooms and charity and overburdened government programs. The shrinking middle class will remain at risk with 20% deductible policies, increasing co-pays, and slimey insurance company claim denial tricks.

    We need single payer now, but nobody has the balls to do anything about it.

  • mp97303 (unverified)

    Very interesting article in the current issue of Mens Health. They do an extensive write up of overseas surgeries. In the article, they state that 30% +/- of our cost is due to the paperwork requirements of the hospital. That is so wrong on so many levels. Seems like that could be an area that could be addressed quite easily without a major revamping of the entire system.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)

    Our current health system financing (insurance) is broken. I agree and look forward to a meaningful discussion.

    But, HOW does obama suggest that his plan is paid for?

  • sidney (unverified)

    Western Policies. Howard needs to attend Stanford Univ. where progressives are educated about reality:

    "Capitalism, a profit and loss system. Corfam—Du Pont's fake leather that made awful shoes in the 1960s—and the Edsel quickly vanished. But, Ruth notes, "the post office and ethanol subsidies and agricultural price supports and mediocre public schools live forever." They are insulated from market forces; they are created, in defiance of those forces, by government, which can disregard prices".

    Obama needs to attack The Pencil Czar -

    This should be required reading for Team Obama. Is there a BlueOregon bookclub?

  • Matt (unverified)

    Did you see the Bunk study stating 2/3 of doctors in America want National Health Care. The doctors who did this study also conducted one in 2002 and found that the majority of doctors did not want national health care, the problem with this is that the 2 question surveys drastically differ in there 2nd question. I found this article, 60% of Physicians Surveyed Oppose Switching to a National Health Care Plan, It's worth a read.

  • Luke (unverified)

    I always wonder why doctors opinions should matter one way or the other in the health care debate. Would we be concerned if lawyers wanted universal subsidized legal services? Or automotive mechanics? Or <insert profession="" of="" choice="" here="">?

  • Bill R. (unverified)

    @ Greg D. "Health care is a huge concern to the voters"

    I don't know what planet you live on, but cost and coverage are huge with voters. Employers are dropping health care plans or offering ones that offer less coverage and bigger deductibles, demanding that employees pay more and more of the premiums. So along comes McCain and wants to trash employment related health care altogether in return for a $2500 tax credit. An ad should be running on that one every day,along with his plans to cut medicare and privatize soc. sec. If you're on Medicare now you can't get a doctor to take you. And if you're on Medicaid, forget it.

  • RichW (unverified)

    My employer pays most of my health insurance. Under the McCain plan it would cost me over $1000/month out of pocket. So that means $12000 per year outgo for a $5000 tax credit, essentially raising my taxes by $7000 year. McCain argues that employers will pass along the savings to employees (yeah right) My employer is a not-for-profit hospital system (that ironically has never billed a patient, insurance company, or goverment). It is unrealistic to think they, or other employers will increase our salaries by what they save in eliminating medical benefits. A lot of people, especially those my age (60+) are more concerned about maintaining medical benefits than getting an increases in salary.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)

    According to the anti-single-payer propagandistic article linked to by Matt, physicians in the two surveys were asked this question in both surveys: "In principle, do you support or oppose governmental legislation to establish national health insurance?"

    The responses to this question were significantly different from 2002 to 2007, therebye confirming the researchers' conclusion that physicians have significantly changed their attitudes, and that there are, indeed, 59% who favor "governmental legislation to establish national health insurance" (32% opposed, 9% neutral).

    The second question in the surveys, according to the linked article, changed from, "Do you support or oppose a national health insurance plan where all health care is paid for by the federal government?" to “Do you support achieving universal coverage through more incremental reform?”. This latter question was meant as a contrast to the first question.

    The findings on the second question clearly show that the physicians in the study favored national health insurance over incremental change.

    Luke's question seems to suppose that physicians would make more money from a national health insurance system than from the current system, but I see no evidence of that. In fact, getting physicians to sign on to a national system has been difficult just for that reason.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)

    Dr. John Geyman, the former chair of family medicine at the University of Washington, says (If We Want Good Health Care from Obama, We Better Push Him to Change His Plan), "Obama offers a false hope...We cannot build on or tweak the present system. Different states have tried this. The problem is the private insurance industry itself. It is not as efficient as a publicly financed system. It fragments risk pools, skimming off the healthier part of the population and leaving the rest uninsured or underinsured. Its administrative and overhead costs are five to eight times higher than public financing through Medicare. It cares more about its shareholders than its enrollees or patients."

    Chris Hedges says, "We on the left, those who should be out there fighting for universal health care and total and immediate withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, sit like lap dogs on the short leashes of our Democratic (read corporate) masters. We yap now and then, but we have forgotten how to snarl and bite. We have been domesticated. And until we punish the two main parties the way big corporations do, by withdrawing support and funding when our issues are ignored, we will remain irrelevant and impotent."

  • johnnie (unverified)

    RW - Are you sure you (a) want to continue working for a "non-profit" that would keeps employee money, (b) obtain health care services from a hospital that conducts such employment practices? If they'd treat employees like that, imagine how they treat patients!

    If you really do think your employer would take that money and keep it as "profits" or for executive salaries then I'd seriously begin looking for another job today, if not sooner!

    The employers who do not pass on the money as salary will do so when everyone leaves for higher wages. How do you think employer health care benefits were provide by employers anyway, through non-union labor negotiations?!

    Who runs your company - Jamie Gorelick?

    <h2>If it's the tax increase you are worried about - suck it up and pay your fair share!</h2>

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