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Tuesday, September 26, 2023


Dean supports public option

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean said there is a need for choice in health care reform in the U.S. during a speech at the Elizabeth Rockwell Pavilion at the M.D. Anderson Memorial Library on Tuesday.

Dean, who is also a physician, said the public option is the best mechanism for competition and cost control.

‘This is not a debate about Democrats, Republicans, liberals and conservatives,’ Dean said. ‘This is a debate as to why it is that those of us who aren’t 65, who aren’t in the Veterans Administration and who aren’t in Congress can’t choose what they choose. Why can’t we have the choices? Why (do) the Senate, the House, the insurance companies and their employers get to make this choice for us?’

Dean said a socialized system of health care already exists in the U.S in the form of the Department of Veterans Affairs (formerly the Veterans Administration), in which the government owns the hospitals involved in the program, and the doctors are paid by salary.

The government already runs health care for everyone over the age of 65 with Medicare, Dean said, which about 50 million people currently use. Medicare is a single-payer system, however, and is not socialized medicine.

Dean said that although the system is not perfect, individuals cannot be turned away. Plus it can be taken across state lines, and everyone is charged the same amount.

‘Instead of passing a 1,000-page bill that only three people in the world understand, if that, why not just let people choose different systems?’ Dean said. ‘If you allow people to choose Medicare who are under 65, that is going to force insurance companies to provide as good a price as Medicare (would).’

Patricia Gray of the UH Law Center’s Health Law and Policy Institute said her concern was that too much time has been spent talking about expanding coverage, and not enough has been done to address cost control and quality of care.

Gray said the focus should instead be on providing incentives to look at the systems that are working efficiently, and are delivering high-quality health care for less than half of the national average costs.

In response, Dean said that Gray’s concern was something that could be focused on and was already implemented in Vermont, where health care reform was passed to prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage to patients for pre-existing conditions.

Although uncertainty and fear tactics are still out there, the American people are becoming more comfortable with reform, Dean said.

‘We simply can’t continue to spend the kind of money we’re spending on health care in this country,’ Dean said. ‘We will go broke as a country, and if (Sen. Max) Baucus’ bill passes, we’ll just go broke faster.’

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