Ralph Nader Touts Universal Health Plan at Rally
It hasn't been easy being green for third party presidential candidate Ralph Nader. As the election draws near, many Democrats and liberal activists are stepping up efforts to urge Nader to drop out of the race. But a defiant Nader yesterday refused to back out, and urged people to "vote your conscience" at his final Green Party "super rally" in Washington, D.C., where celebrities and activists, including a representative from the California Nurses Association, spoke on his behalf. Nader's speech concentrated on a universal health care system "that focuses on prevention" and the "corporate greed" of pharmaceutical and insurance companies, among other topics. Nader hopes that his candidacy will not only garner the 5% of the popular vote needed to give the Green Party federal matching funds, but also draw attention to Green Party issues -- particularly health care (Jenny Cook, California Healthline, 11/6). To hear Nader's speech go to http://www.c-span.org/campaign2000/.
What would Nader do with the health care system in the unlikely event that he is elected president? On Oct. 13, Nader outlined his plan for a national health insurance program that would provide comprehensive benefits to all Americans and would be funded directly by the federal government under a
"single-payer" system. Calling the current system rife with "unnecessary and fraudulent billing," he explained that the "massive savings" from a single-payer system would be "more than enough" to provide universal coverage at the same cost as the current health care system. "Our country needs full Medicare for everyone with free choice of doctors and hospital by patients," Nader stated. He blamed the "huge profits and bloated salaries" of large HMOs and other health care companies for contributing to the current "inadequate health care system," which he called "a disgrace to our democracy." Noting that the current health care system leaves millions of Americans without coverage -- with several million of those added under the Clinton-Gore administration -- Nader said, "The United States is the only western nation that does not provide health insurance coverage for all its people. The United States pays more per person for health care than any other country in the world. Yet, according to the World Health Organization, the United States is ranked 37th in the overall quality of health care." Nader also pointed out that health care access is "distributed unequally" among different economic and ethnic groups (Nader release, 10/13).
In an accompanying statement on his vision of universal health care, Nader advocated a proposal based on two plans drafted by the Physicians for a National Health Program -- one proposal for a national health care program and another for a national long-term care program. Under Nader's plan, all Americans would have a "free choice of doctors at all times" and would be included in a "single, comprehensive public plan" that covered acute, rehabilitative and long term care as well as mental health services, dental care, prescription drugs and medical supplies. Health care providers would remain in the private sector, and the health plan would provide for "different payment schemes" for health care providers to "minimize the disruption of the existing system." In addition, a transition fund would be established for health care administrators whose jobs would be eliminated as a result of "the simplicity of the single-payer system." Funding for health coverage currently paid by employers and individuals would be obtained through several means:
- a "small" payroll tax of less than 4% for employers, which Nader called a "large savings" for employers who currently pay employees' health insurance premiums, but an "additional cost" for those who currently do not;
- a tax on stock and bond transactions -- one quarter of 1% of the transaction value for buyer and seller;
- an additional income tax on the wealthiest 5% of Americans;
- closure of "corporate tax loopholes" to ensure that corporations "pay their fair share of taxes."
"Providing universal health care can only be accomplished through a single-payer system: no country has ever achieved universal coverage with private health insurance," Nader concluded (Nader statement, 10/13).
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