The current system is not a free market; it is a set of government rigged rules that ensure that the insurance and pharmaceutical industries prosper, and that tens of millions of people go without access to care - Dean Baker (DOB 7/13/1958) co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) and author of "The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer".
Thom Hartmann: Specifically, what are the things you're suggesting we do? (to bring down the costs associated with health care.)
John Edwards: Well, in the case of insurance companies, we want to create competition that doesn't exist today, between the insurance companies that are in these "health markets" that I'm going to set up with my health care plan. ... Everybody will be covered under either a private or public plan. People can choose the government plan if they want to. That creates a competition that doesn't exist today. Secondly, because insurance companies are spending 30-40 percent of every dollar on administrative costs and profits, we mandate a minimum of 85 percent of each dollar has to go towards patient care.
Thom Hartmann: That seems like an incredibly important thing. I was staggered last fall when the wall street journal revealed that William McGuire, the CEO of United Health Group - the second largest health insurance company in the United States, took home 1.6 billion (see update below) ... His company's stock price tripled from January 2003 to January 2006. Net income in 2005 of 3.3 billion - and this is a company that is basically just moving money - moving paper around.
John Edwards: That's exactly right. It's terrible that we have 45 million people without coverage - that's a moral issue - but on top of that the costs are just staggering. We desperately need a president who will take these insurance companies on. They don't need to make that kind of money. ... You can count on the fact that there's going to be millions of dollars spent on television ads fighting what we're trying to do. What you should ask yourself, when you see one of these ads, is "who's paying for it?". It's either a big drug company, or a big insurance company. It's the people who are charging you so much money that you can't continue to pay for your health care.
Thom Hartmann: Senator Edwards, tell us a little more about the Medicare Plus part of this plan, please.
John Edwards: There are a lot of people who believe that we should go from the system we have now to a single payer system. An entirely government run health care system. There's a lot to be said for single payer - it's administrative costs are much lower, they're more efficient, and - certainly in some places - the care is better... but we live in a country where people are used to having choices, and my concern was that jump was to much, to fast. We need to do something big, something bold, cover everybody, real universality ... but we wanted people to have a choice between a private or a government plan. The reason for me setting it up that way is because I think people will choose to go to the government plan. The net result will be to drive the system to a single payer system.
My Commentary: Obviously insurance companies will, by and large, be unable to compete, and will be driven out of business. Fantastic. There is absolutely no reason why the American people should continue to tolerate these leeches which drain away 30 to 40 percent of every health care dollar when the government can do the same job for 3-5 percent.
Seeing as, according to Mother Jones Magazine, 76 percent of Americans agree that access to health care should be a right and should be provided equally to everyone (according to a 2004 survey), the only question is will our elected officials give us what we want, or will they bow to the wishes of their corporate masters?
Meidcare for all would save an estimated $300 billion dollars. Even though millions of us have no health coverage at all, we spend almost twice as much as the other countries that do a better job of covering everyone. We waste hundreds of billions on insurance companies which do not provide any health care. In fact, one third of that money is wasted on company salaries, stock holder profits, lobbying and marketing. The only way to pay for all of us is to remove the useless waste and profits of the insurance companies.
Update, 7/23/2007: Regarding the 1.6 billion United Health Group CEO William McGuire "took home" - Mr. McGuire's stock options are currently frozen due to ongoing litigation. It seems that the Public Employees' Retirement System of Ohio (PERS) and the State Teachers' Retirement System of Ohio (STRS), who own a combined 5.6 million in UHG common stock, are claiming that the value of their stock declined due to "the options backdating scandal in which the UHG board cavalierly abdicated its oversight responsibilities and improperly allowed McGuire to set his own compensation". (Attorney General Marc Dann questions UnitedHealth Group review panel. 2/7/2007)
 Facts about Universal Health Care and Single Payer Health Care for All.org.
 Sicko Factual Backup From MichaelMoore.com.
 Sicko Proves our Health Care Approach is Working by Janet Bagnall, Montreal Gazette. 7/15/2007
 Fixing Health Care: Not Government vs. Market by Dean Baker, Truthout.org. 7/10/2007.
 United Health sued for racketeering posted by nyceve, The Daily Kos. 2/15/2007.
 Edwards Details His Health Care Proposal by John M. Broder, The New York Times. 2/6/2007.
 Health Care Administrative Costs: Canada vs. USA From Healthfacts. 10/2003.
 The Case For Single Payer, Universal Health Care For The United States (Universal Health Care Myths Debunked) by John R. Battista, M.D. and Justine McCabe, Ph.D. 6/4/1999.