Wes Clark Endorses Transition to Single-Payer
by Scott Shields, Mon Jan 30, 2006 at 12:34:10 PM EST
Unlike Matt, I was not present at today's "Real State of the Union 2006" event at the New America Foundation. But thanks to the miracle of satellite radio, I did listen in on a good portion of General Wes Clark's headline speech on C-SPAN Radio.
Overall, I liked what I heard. Though it was billed as a foreign policy event, Clark was clearly putting forward a broad vision for a Democratic platform. But to my ears, he was also laying the groundwork for another White House run in 2008, discussing everything from Beltway corruption and early childhood education to labor and economic policy. And perhaps the most interesting part of his speech came with the section on healthcare.
In health care, we need to take better advantage of modern technology to practice evidence-based medicine, in which treatments and practices are based on statistically proven results - not commercial advertising - and doctors and hospitals are held accountable for their performance, not just by the threat of malpractice but by the day-to-day quality of their results. We need to harness the innovation of our biotech, pharmaceutical, and health insurance industries better to serve the public good, not just the private gain of shareholders. No child in America should grow up without regular medical check-ups and care - or regular exercise and physical fitness - and every adult should be provided access to the kinds of diagnostic testing and preventive treatments which can slow the onset of aging diseases like diabetes, atherosclerosis, and Alzheimer's. Additional insurance coverage should be directed to catastrophic illness and injuries, the kind that wreck families and shatter productive lives. And inevitably this will mean transitioning over time from a work place centered, private payer system toward greater reliance on some form of single-payer system to ease administrative burdens and reduce costs.
Even using the phrase "single-payer system" is a somewhat gutsy move on his part. As President Bush is set to announce his 'less insurance, not more' plan for HSAs, Clark is boldly willing to move the other way, not just accept compromise. Of course, he's talking about an eventual transition, but at least he acknowledges that it is the ultimate goal. The proposals many Democrats have put forward in the past have been pretty sound (like Kerry's call for government-sponsored catastrophic reinsurance), but too many seem to shy away from explicitly endorsing the one system that makes the most sense. I'm glad to see Clark join the ranks of Democrats who aren't afraid of speaking up.