March 30th, 2007 by alex
Sen. Mike Gravel and the other candidates for the Democratic Presidential Nomination attended a special forum on health care in Nevada on March 24, 2007, which was co-sponsored by the Center for American Progress Action Fund and Service Employees International Union.
The following is a transcript of Senator Mike Gravel’s speech at the Center for American Progress’s Health Forum.
KAREN TUMULTY: Thank you very much. And now we are going to move on to our final candidate of the day, former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel.
MIKE GRAVEL: Hi, all. I just want to give my condolences to all of you who realized that something sad happened last night: The Rebels lost by four points. I know what that means to you. I also want to point out that, Andy is sitting over there. Andy, I have to tell you, you speak good English. I don’t understand why candidates don’t understand you. I want to thank you for getting me here. It’s better than what CNN is going to do to me in New Hampshire by censoring my voice. But I also want to thank John Podesta. But let me say that Andy pointed out one thing right in the beginning is that we do have a problem, and I don’t want to take your time when you know as well as I do. We’ve heard a lot of anecdotal experiences and deep emotions about the problem. That’s not a solution. That’s not a solution. What’s wrong with health care in this country is that we saddle the business community with carrying it, and they can’t do it because it’s going to cost you your jobs, it’s going to cost — it’s going to damage you internationally.
Why? Karen was alluding to it. Historical accident. In

[the] second World War when wages were frozen, the only way you could get people to come into your company and work was to give them a lot of health care benefits. The war is over and we don’t have this freeze on wages, so we don’t need that system to go ahead and carry. And if you heard all of the blame, they essentially, except for Dennis, they were all involving employers and employees. That is a non-starter and it’s a Band-Aid that is not going to work.
Now, what can we do? Oh, well, real simple. We can turn around and say let’s have a health care program that establishes equality. And I’ll give you the name of it. It’s called the universal single-payer — by single-payer I mean all Americans pay for it regardless of the system you have now but the system you’re going to get, single-payer Health Care Voucher plan.
Under the plan we would issue vouchers to every single American. And the vouchers, you don’t pay for them, they’re issued to you. You sign up every year for them. And the vouchers will have a very modest co-pay, a very modest deductible, but that’s it. Everybody gets the same product universally in the United States of America. And then if you want more than the product you got, you pay for it.
There’s no magic in this whole process. Somebody is going to pay. You know who pays, it’s the average American, one way or the other, particular under our present system. And so to want to trash the business community and trash our tax system, which is already corrupt, with greater corruption as a way to solve the problem is a non-starter. When they tell you about oh, you know, I’ve done this, done that, keep in mind Harry Truman was the first to raise this issue with the Democrats, and they didn’t do it and we haven’t done it since, and so it’s been a little Band-Aid one on top of the other.
Now, with these vouchers you’ll be able to have choice: Choice of doctors, choice of hospitals, free choice. Now, you’ll be able to also have a choice of maybe no more than five or six plans, insurance plans. Now, I have my suspicions with the predator[y] activities under our present mercantile system where you have your lobbyists, 30,000 in Washington, go out and make sure that they take care of their clients.
So there’s going to be some changes made in the future, depends on how this is enacted into law. And it’s not going to be enacted by the Congress. Don’t hold your breath on that please. Never will happen, for the very simple reason that there’s too many interests, 30,000 lobbyists. Who do you think is bundling all these millions of dollars to the presidential candidates? It isn’t coming from the Holy Trinity. My God, it’s coming from vital special interests, whether they’re for Democrats or Republicans, that’s what you’re faced with.
So now you’re going to have a voucher. You got the freedom of choice. You got the freedom of choice in plans. Now, you might have a public plan if we don’t see the insurance industry and the pharmaceutical industry shaping up. So now you got public assistance. But let’s have like public assistance, let’s have a central body called a health care board with regional boards that they would then define what the various vouchers are for.
And the vouchers are set up for risk on an individual basis, not on a collective this fits all, because if you’re young, you probably don’t have a cost of more than $3,000. When you’re my age, it could be $150, $180 thousand in one year, which is what I got hit with and I went bankrupt as a result of that.
So make no misunderstandings, I know the system. I get my meds from the VA and I get the rest from the Medicare. So I know the system up front and personal, and I don’t have to tell you about somebody in Benton, Iowa crying on my shoulder. Let me point out to you, so what will happen, when I’m talking individually designed, we