Wes Clark Endorses Transition to Single-Payer

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.

Tags: General 2008, Healthcare (all tags)



Re: Wes Clark Endorses Transition to Single-Payer

Why am I not surprised

Clark in '08!!!

by SensibleDemocrat 2006-01-30 12:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Wes Clark Endorses Transition to Single-Payer

This is a terrific proposal from Clark from top to bottom. I love the references to quality measures, something people rarely talk about.  It is amazing to me that in era when you can check the quality of virtually every consumer item in Consumer Reports, we have no way to determine if the doctors and hospitals we use are up to snuff.

by John Mills 2006-01-30 12:55PM | 0 recs
Re: Wes Clark Endorses Transition to Single-Payer

Clark just moved to front-runner status in my book.

Pretty savvy political speech IMO. I think he knows that this is exactly what the blogosphere is looking for. Especially if you contrast him staking out a clear position on health care to the vagaries of Warner, Bayh, and Clinton.

by adamterando 2006-01-30 12:58PM | 0 recs
Re: Wes Clark in 2008 !

Wes Clark was superb today on C-Span 3 with his speech on "Real State of U.S. Foreign Policy 2006"

I sure hope Wes runs because he is the ONLY ONE that will get any cross over Republican votes and a significant percentage of the independents to  wipe the floor clean against ANY Republican Pres. candidate in 2008.

"No Democrat can win in 2008 unless the American people believe that they can defend them! The American people will trust the Democratic Party to defend America, when they believe that Democrats will defend other Democrats."

- Wesley Clark, April 16, 2005

by km4 2006-01-30 01:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Wes Clark Endorses Transition to Single-Payer

Go Wes! Clark in '08!

by kitebro 2006-01-30 01:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Wes Clark Endorses Transition to Single-Payer

He's more of a Democrat than the 17 losers who voted against the filibuster of Scalito in the Senate.  We need more Democrats like him!

The Extremist Rantings Of A Mainstream Progressive

by frizzle 2006-01-30 01:53PM | 0 recs
Decrease 'administrative burdens'?

"ease administrative burdens and reduce costs". While he didn't allude to this directly  I am so sick of hearing about the glorious ability of Medicaid/Medicare to have such low administrative costs.  I'm really skeptical of the administrative costs being lower.  For one, does MedicaidMedicare count the cost of collecting it's revenue through the IRS(or the imposed costs on companies and citizens to correctly pay those taxes)?  For another does Medicaid count the millions that companies ultimately collect in higher fees to pay for interpreting their insane paperwork(how many commercials have I heard saying -we'll do the paperwork for you?-the companies is paying for all that work through funds collected from Medicaid/Medicare).  I don't claim to have statistics or anything on this I just want to know if their 'low administrative costs' take all these things into consideration.  

by Freedom Fighter 2006-01-30 02:14PM | 0 recs
Re: Decrease 'administrative burdens'?

Medicare does have lower admin costs than private insurance companies about 5-9% admin compared with the 15% range for pvt policies.  The irony is that Medicare claims payment has always been outsourced to private insurers.  The lower costs are partially due to a uniform benefits package.

Medicaid is a tougher nut to crack b/c its benefits and administration varies state by state.

by John Mills 2006-01-30 02:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Wes Clark Endorses Transition to Single-Payer

This is smart, because Clark's major obstacle is going to be the idea that he doesn't know domestic policy. If he can make strong proposals and show that he knows what he's talking about, he can make up for his lack of experience.

by bluenc 2006-01-30 02:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Wes Clark Endorses Transition to Single-Payer

His experience in domestic policy is more extensive than one would think.  His command experience made him responsible for just about every aspect of the soldiers and soldiers families.  That of course, included things like education for children, healthcare etc.  Do not discount this experience.  Experience is experience regardless of whether it was as an elected offical.

by roseba 2006-02-02 06:38AM | 0 recs
Re: Wes Clark Endorses Transition to Single-Payer

I'm sure will hear much more about this. He spoke about some of this during the 04 primaries although he had little time to formulate the entire package. He seems to have put some extra meat on the bones.

In his recent remarks, he has expressed the opinion that if we are to be competitive in the world market, then we must transform the healthcare beast.

Watch and listen.

by Donna Z 2006-01-30 03:30PM | 0 recs
Re: Wes Clark Endorses Transition to Single-Payer

C-Span is re-airing The New America Foundation Conference right now. General Clark's speech is at the end, about 3 hrs in. Should be around 11pm or so.

Full text of General Clark's speech is HERE.

I'm not sure how good the chances are of Clark winning the nomination for the '08 race. It's NOT just the Corporate Press who blacks him out. Too many of our elected officials are much too comfortable with business as usual in DC and he would definitely rock their cozy little boat... That said I will work my ass off for him if he decides to run.

by jen 2006-01-30 03:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Wes Clark Endorses Transition to Single-Payer

Just heard that Clark will be on at 11:45 pm eastern. But tune in now. Steve pulled this conference together in a week or two and did an amazing job.

by jen 2006-01-30 04:24PM | 0 recs
Increase the minimum wage now.

Write your senators and representative that you demand they increase the minimum wage.

http://www.usalone.com/cgi-bin/petition. cgi?pnum=148

by maximus7 2006-01-30 04:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Wes Clark Endorses Transition to Single-Payer

Even using the phrase "single-payer system" is a somewhat gutsy move on his part.

What planet have you been living on? Every single industrialized nation except the US has some form of socialized healthcare: That's called the "reality plain."

I think it's friggin' outstanding that a former Rhodes Scholar and Gen. (Ret.) Clark is finally on the bus. I'm wondering how many people here are old enough to understand that contradiction or, more importantly, know what it really means?

Perhaps we're finally going to win afterall?  


by Seldom Seen Smith 2006-01-30 04:57PM | 0 recs
Re: Wes Clark Endorses Transition to Single-Payer

I think he meant that single-payer health care is not always very popular here in the U.S. For example, Howard Dean stopped short of calling for a single-payer system because he didn't think it could make it through Congress.

by bluenc 2006-01-30 05:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Wes Clark Endorses Transition to Single-Payer

Hey, I just got a survey today from Gov. Dean telling me I've been selected as a leader in my district! That's outstanding considering I'm a registered Independent. The only reason I can think of for Dr. Dean not calling for universal healthcare is because he's been neutered by the Democratic party establishment which is on the take from the healthcare mafia for corporate contributions.

You've probably never read the Electric Kool-Aid Test? I don't guess you've ever dropped six hits of orange sunshine in four days either, huh?

It's probably a miracle I can still think but I'm still on top of things. Hey, quit defending the Democratic Party for not getting on the universal healthcare bus sooner. It's a bummer trip.

by Seldom Seen Smith 2006-01-30 07:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Wes Clark Endorses Transition to Single-Payer

I wasn't making a statement one way or the other. I was just explaining why it was a bit surprising for Clark to explicitly endorse a single-payer system. Facts are facts and, like it or not, single-payer health care isn't exactly a slam dunk issue.

by bluenc 2006-01-30 07:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Wes Clark Endorses Transition to Single-Payer

I agree completely. I was just attempting to add a little levity. I'm not surprised Gen. (Ret) Clark is advocating this position because he was a Rhodes Scholar and is obviously more than capable of analyzing the numbers. I view this is as a solid development.


by Seldom Seen Smith 2006-01-30 09:21PM | 0 recs
Re: Wes Clark Endorses Transition to Single-Payer

Not suprising at all.

Take a look at the military, eg: a self contained ecosphere.  We need a national plan for things just like we have in military communities.

by roseba 2006-02-02 06:41AM | 0 recs
I was also impressed by his comments on UNIONS....

as possible ways to manage training, etc.

"If they can't do it, who will??"

by Gloria 2006-01-30 09:14PM | 0 recs
Re: Wes Clark Endorses Transition to Single-Payer

I'd like to see a whole lot of Democrats join Clark in not being afraid to speak out. Clark's been speaking out for years. You haven't been listening all that well, it seems, Scott.

by awcd 2006-01-31 04:31AM | 0 recs
Now do you get it, Wes-doubters?

The beauty of a Wes candidacy is that politically speaking, he is the Anti-Hillary.

Hillary is hamstrung with an image as a Birkenstock liberal, no matter how far to the right she moves.  She would have to nuke Tehran before middle America would believe she had any capacity to defend the country.  And if she proposed a single payer plan, they would dust off the term "commie pinko" just so they could beat her with it.

Now Wes--with those four stars on his shoulder, and his Purple Hearts and service medals, he is INOCULATED against the "soft on defense" tag.  And if HE proposes a single-payer system, well, it just sounds like it might be SENSIBLE after all.  Which of course it is.

If Democrats want to see the advance of progressive values, there is no better salesman around then Wes Clark.  I DREAM of a Clark presidency for this reason.

by paul minot 2006-01-31 06:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Now do you get it, Wes-doubters?

I like Clark a lot, and I like him more since the 2004 election. I'm still a doubter, though, because of the lack of experience. There are a couple of elements to this. First, he doesn't have a lot of experience in politics. When the GOP starts hitting him hard and fast, can he fight back? Bill Clinton was a master of defensive politics, and he still spent a lot of time on the ropes. Secondly, Clark's strength on foreign policy and defense is matched only by his weakness on domestic and economic issues. He may have great ideas and may have the right plan, but he's going to need to point to something when voters ask, "What have you done before?" Finally, we have to look at who he might be facing. The GOP nomination is McCain's to lose (unless Rice jumps in). How does Clark match up against McCain, who has years of experience in the Senate? Again, I'm open to being convinced, and I'd love to hear what some Clark fans have to say. I think a Warner-Clark or Clark-Warner ticket could be very strong.

by bluenc 2006-01-31 09:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Now do you get it, Wes-doubters?

from a Salon interview with Tim Grieve, June '05:

...TG:  And what can you do about issues like these over the next however long it is before you make a decision about 2008?

WC:  It's a matter of both formulating and speaking and acting. I laid out a strategy in the book I published in 2003, "Winning Modern Wars," in the sixth chapter. It's still the right strategy for America. It's even more current now than it was then about how we have to conduct ourselves abroad and what we have to do at home to meet the competition from overseas. And then I think we've got to encourage Americans to get moving.

TG:  "Get moving" in what sense?

WC:  On education, healthcare reform, dealing with the reality of poverty, heading off crises before they erupt into war, promoting better business practices at home and a better business environment at home.

TG:  It seems like that would have, if not the dual purpose, at least the dual effect, of shaping the debate and broadening your own portfolio a bit.

WC:  Well, I have a broad background. People in uniform have had incredibly varied careers, and they've done a lot of things. Because so many Americans don't haven't gone through the military themselves, they may be not aware of that.

In the military I was responsible for 44,000 schoolchildren in Europe. I had a number of hospitals [to oversee], I had to deal with problems of diplomacy, I had to deal with base-closure problems and job problems in the civilian economy, I had a big budget to manage -- in addition to being a sort of traditional general. And in the military, we got all the education that you could possibly want. I had a degree in philosophy, politics, economics. I taught political philosophy and economics. I was an assistant in the White House Office of Management and Budget. I saw how budget decisions are made. I saw how the president goes through the annual budget, and I worked the process with Congress.


by jen 2006-01-31 03:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Wes Clark Endorses Transition to Single-Payer

We live in a wonderful nation nearly three hundred million strong.  Among us are some of the brightest minds in every field of study.  When we have had great leadership, we have dedicated ourselves to great and noble causes before and accomplished near miracles in short periods of time.  The time has come for us to rally around a cause so glaringly obvious that it is clear both to those on the far left, the far right and everyone in between. We need a health care revolution in this country.  

Many who see the problem look to solutions provided elsewhere in the world and see a government run, single-payer, universal health plan as the solution.  I believe this solution to be so, well, been there, done that, 1965 thinking.  It has never worked brilliantly anywhere it has been implemented.  Some countries have better systems than others, but all the countries provide marginal service which is neither cost-effective, nor patient friendly.  

There is no doubt that our complex patchwork of pseudo-systems is the most expensive in the world and provides service that while the best in the world for many, is only average in spreading that greatness across "universal" coverage.   It is important to note that even in countries which provide "universal coverage", the populations on a whole are not universally covered. For example, small pockets of rare minorities always get the worst service.  

I think that we should be ashamed of ourselves if we accept a single payer system that has really failed to produce anything but mediocrity in every country it has been tried in.  Additionally, our country is exponentially larger than these others and so the systemic faults would be proportionally larger in our application.    The cost would be astronomical in both dollars and human suffering.

The good news in that we can draw on the brilliant, talented and caring members of our large community and come up with a system so wonderful it becomes the model for the rest of the world to emulate.  Any new system should include three main components:

1. It must be universal in nature where everyone is covered through a combination of free market plans, federal re-insurance funds, and a redesigned Medicare safety net.

2. It must provide individual portability so consumers can change plans regardless of pre-existing conditions.

3. It must provide a plethora of free market plans which allow individual consumers the range of options to pick a plan that fits their balance of need and budget.  Even low wage earners should be able to buy simple plans to at least cover some of their health care needs.

Additionally the plan should include three core economic elements:

1. Pre-Tax Medical Savings Accounts: Consumers can buy a variety of their health care needs in cash transactions which uses market forces to increase competition and drive down prices.  Routine medical exams, some prescriptions, immunization, simple blood work, dental cleanings, and other small or routine expenses all could be paid for from these cash accounts.

2. Consumer purchased insurance plans. - These plans would cover consumers for expenses greater than those paid for from health savings accounts, and for things which require ongoing treatments.  All plans would, or at least could, have ceiling limits where responsibility of liability is transferred to larger, or perhaps national, re-insurance fund.  Consumer would no longer get health insurance through their employers.  Transitional regulations would force business to give raises to all employees based on the cost of their health care.  

3. National Re-Insurance Fund - This fund, separate from the general funds of the government, is used to cover catastrophic health needs allowing insurance companies to cap their liability which will allow companies to provide much more reasonably price plans.  This re-insurance fund would also be set-up to cover the "policy portability" issue. If consumers need to switch insurance companies and pre-existing conditions make it difficult for free-market forces to work unabated, consumers would get help paying premiums with a re-insurance fund co-payment.  This re-insurance treasury would be funded by a surcharge on health insurance premiums of about five percent paid equally by consumers and insurance companies.  

Regardless of the specifics, I am sure that if we pool our minds, our hearts, and our resources together we can create an amazing system that really delivers world-class, top-notch, health care to each and every member of our society without breaking the back of anyone.  I know that if we dream together, debate together, and work together, we can create a true masterpiece of public policy remembered hundreds of years from now for it's brilliance.  Or, we can use a tired old system more reminiscent of the 19th century than of the 21st.  It is up to you.  Do you want the best the world has to offer? Or, do you just want to settle for the same dysfunctional system much of the rest of the world wishes they didn't have either?  

Let's start a true health care revolution! - (Peaceful please, no need for violence.)

by placetoponder 2006-03-09 09:08AM | 0 recs


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