The Green Party’s Universal Health Care Plan
The Presidential Candidate running on The Green Party ticket in our Nation’s exceptionally critical millennial election has proclaimed, loud and clear, his position in favor of instituting universal health care for all Americans. There is absolutely no doubt that, in light of the highly sophisticated medical techniques our society has collectively developed, every American, rich or poor, is entitled, as a member of the human race, to the most advanced and efficient care possible. When homeopathic remedies suffice, these should be used; and when surgical intervention is required, these procedures should be within grasp of every member of every household in this country, according to a southwestern edition of the published Green Party Platform (2000, 7). These are fundamental matters of moral and ethical principle, the Greens assert. A National Health Plan, the Party contends, must be drafted, enacted into law, and made available to all American citizens and permanent residents of this country.
Actual implementation of such a national health plan might prove problematic in the eyes of some. However, the United States of America is the wealthiest of the world’s nations. The U.S. Gross National Product has often exceeded that of the entire European Economic Community, and clearly exceeds the per capita income levels of many nations that already have viable National Health Plans.
The Federal Government must assume responsibility for funding, managing and operating this program, not only since it is the prerogative of government to do so, but the duty. This concept is certainly not new. John Kennedy envisaged a National Health program and, working through the visionaries of his era, almost achieved it. There is no reason to abandon this vital element of our society. It is, in fact, a right, an entitlement and an indispensable asset for each and every American who labors so assiduously to improve the status of this land. It is also a right and an entitlement of those who have not known the bounty of this nation’s wealth.
This having been clarified, let us examine carefully the reasoning and the key issues associated with a National Health Care Plan. The Green Party has set forth a comprehensive Health Platform that benefits all Americans, even those with medical conditions pre-existing enactment of this proposed coverage (NM Green Party Platform, 2000, 7). Not only would preventive care be available, but routine procedures in the event of minor illness, as well as major medical coverage when ordered by private physicians, clinics or hospitals. This program would cover all ancillary care, inclusive of prescribed pharmaceuticals, long term medications and extended nursing care benefits.
An indispensable feature of this program would be a single-source payment mechanism, enabling funds to flow directly from the Federal Government, with administration of the program at state and local levels. Private health care providers would, of course, continue to function concurrently and in conjunction with this new federal payment modality. This system will guarantee what Steve Paulson, writing in AP Online, calls "proper health care" for all members of our society (2000, 1).
There is no reason for business interests to feel threatened by the Green Party’s proposed "National Health Trust Fund" because, as employers, they will save hundreds of billions of dollars. This wasted capital would have been poured into vast numbers of over-priced, highly specialized, and hence expensive, private health plans, many of which select less proficient health providers than the government would locate (NM Green Party Platform, 2000, 7).
David Cobb, writing in the Outlook Section of The Houston Chronicle (Sept 10, 2000, 5), stresses the importance that Ralph Nader and his Party assign to the universal health plan in the overall scheme of their Party platform. It is, in fact, a centerpiece deserving of special analysis by voters, political observers and medical professionals. Combined with the Green Party’s labor laws, ‘living wage’ proposals and environmental policies, the health plan would guarantee that the nation’s population would be free from undue concern about vital issues affecting everyone’s life, according to Cobb. Picking up on this same multi-thematic content, involving a complete social and societal package, Associated Press also covered the Nader total health care concept, placing it in their opening paragraph (Paulson, 2000, 1). It can be readily seen that the welfare of individuals is important to the Green Party, in the physiological sense as well as in terms of ethics and the environment.
Examining in more detail the Green Party’s Universal Health Plan, many facets of this all-encompassing coverage leap before the observer’s eyes. Medicare prescriptions would be totally covered under the Nader Plan, with few, if any questions, asked. The entire nationwide Medicare system would be entitled to bargain for the lowest possible prices for medications, just as the Defense Department is currently doing (AP Release, Sept 8, 2000, cited in Issues 2000). The Greens advocate a sweeping approach, not an incremental building of benefits, or even a tearing down of benefits, as other politicians propose, according to a Nader interview on NPR (July 11, 2000, cited in Issues 2000). While private medical facilities would be maintained under a Nader plan, a resurgence of publicly funded institutions and expansion of now decaying hospitals would become evident, as Federal Funds, from the budget surplus, were allocated to these priority needs. By dismantling existing managed care (e.g. HMOs and outmoded mandatory patient assignment plans), the entire health industry could be reorganized, without necessarily displeasing professional medical practitioners (National Green Party Health Platform, 2000, 2). The patient would benefit in innumerable ways, as has been proven in Canada and Europe for decades.
One is ultimately forced to ask, in light of the success of dozens of other nations, "Why has the United States remained so backward, and so reluctant to provide decent medical care for its entire population?" It is, critics of the current system, agree, unconscionable that some 50 million people are without health insurance, including highly vulnerable children (Nader, May 3, 2000). Counting those who are under-insured, more than 30% of the nation is currently unprotected against major debilitating illness. The answer to the foregoing question, and to other questions even more troubling, lies with the omnipotent drug lobbies, with the doctor’s lobby (the AMA) and in massive hospital chains that operate strictly for profit, at the expense of the injured, the dying and the helpless (Nader, May 3, 2000). If we look closely at Green Party literature, the issue rapidly becomes (1) a question of political philosophy, and (2) a simple matter of those few Americans who are well insured denying – consciously or unconsciously – those who are without adequate means of their very lives.
The ugly head of insurance fraud also enters the equation, with more than $100 billion in falsified medical claims and vouchers submitted yearly by dishonest hospital and clinic personnel (Issues 2000, 2). That alone is worth examining!
In a neighboring state, New Mexico, where incomes are a mere fraction of those in Texas, the Green Party recognizes the true impact of no Universal Health coverage on the physical welfare of impoverished individuals. The Party lashes out at the insurance industry, calling for dramatic reforms (NM Green Party Platform, 2000, 17). In this same publication, the Greens of New Mexico call for an AIDS prevention and treatment component to the National Health Plan. According to a nationally syndicated columnist, these sentiments are also echoed by Ann Northrop a staunch supporter of Nader’s health policies (Ireland, 2000). Funding for health education, in all of its aspects, should be very much a part of this program, on a par with drug treatment initiatives and rehabilitation facilities.
The Green Party’s Health Platform has not ignored women’s health issues, either. Special needs are recognized and the question of abortion is at the top of the list. The Greens are pro-choice, and support a woman’s right to govern all the functions of her body. Under the Nader Universal Health Plan, abortions would not only be legal everywhere, but they would be considered ‘primary care’ in the large sense of the term and paid for by the Program (NM Green Party Platform, 2000, 7). Naturally, other women’s health issues are also addressed in some detail, including specially ear-marked funding to treat breast cancer, and to prevent it.
Following up on these thoughts, the Green Party, in cross-country publications and in statewide pamphlets, has advocated wide-ranging preventative programs as an integral part of the Universal Health Plan. By allocating funds for dietary counseling, exercise and holistic health care, expenses can be significantly reduced, in both the short and long term (NM Green Party Platform, 7). This expansive thinking is reflected in widely distributed literature and is being re-printed in mass media nationwide. A case in point is The Washington Post’s article entitled "Nader Waves the Flag for Statehood" (Sept 21, 2000) in which Nader is reported to have advocated statehood for the District of Columbia, but also is quoted as supporting health benefits for all, as well as marijuana for medicinal purposes. This same Post article also underscored the unconditional support that Nader and the Green Party are lending to selected congressional, school board, and city ward candidates who are adamantly in favor of universal health coverage for their constituents.
Rising to the defense of his own Universal Health Plan, in a lengthy interview on PBS television with Jim Lehrer, Ralph Nader clearly stated, "We've had ten years of economic growth and that growth is not diminishing the problems of health care…" (PBS, June 30, 2000). Indeed, the economic prosperity of this nation, he seems to assert, should be placed at the disposal of those who require it, and be far less under the control of corporate and industrial interests.
It is equally important not to lose sight of the Green Party’s key ethical and philosophical underpinnings, all of which are aimed at the dignity of humankind and the dangers inherent in excessive profits. These values are pointed out in Issues 2000 and in all official Party literature, generally in The Preamble of such documents (Issues 2000, passim; NM Green Party Platform, 2000, 1). Therefore, the intrinsic moral position of the Green Party not only justifies the Universal Health Plan, but it sets the Party and its followers against corporate forces that have perpetuated the private insurance industry for over a century. The Nader program would brush away the existing health infrastructure, as noted earlier, and replace it with a centralized, systematic approach capable of being administered at all three levels of government. A system of comprehensive care is proposed, reinforcing existing entities that seem successful (such as Medical in California) and reorganizing other systems at the state and local levels that are not functioning properly. Massachusetts, for example, has just legislated provisions for a statewide universal health care program for its residents, and the Nader concept would further bolster such a program, conceivably providing an extra layer of protection in the Bay State. This combination would seem to be among the most ideal of all, if both programs actually come to pass.
In order to publicize his Universal Health Plan, as well as his attacks on the health insurance industry, Ralph Nader has been campaigning heavily in the nation’s largest states, such as California. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat, in a feature on October 31, 2000, notes that the Nader campaign is extending deep into Hispanic territory in Southern California. This same article points out that certain features of his Platform, e.g. the health plan, are attracting new voters, to the dismay of the Gore camp whose followers see an eroding of Democratic Party support among the liberal wing of their party. Such an erosion could cost Gore the entire presidential election, effectively dividing normally Democratic votes into two segments. This would obviously catapult George W. Bush into power, and, ironically, further strengthen the private health industry and all that Nader detests about it, according to The Press Democrat analyst (Ostrom, Oct 31, 2000, 1-4).
The health insurance issue further exacerbates the emotional pitch of the presidential campaign and magnifies Nader’s encroachment on his rivals. The Green Party’s thin slice of the electoral pie, according to Ostrom, is just enough to "send shudders through Democratic ranks." (Oct 31, 2000, 1) As tensions build, both on actual issues associated with platforms and with regard to the projected split of the electorate’s vote, the Green Party’s National Health Plan can only receive more and more publicity among sympathetic voters, such as the elderly and the growing ranks of the impoverished minorities.
In the last analysis, the fight of the Green Party for the rights and entitlements of all U.S. residents is a fight in favor of vital ‘quality of life’ issues, such as health, affecting both the middle class and the working class. It is not necessarily, according to increasingly proliferating Green party hand-outs, a fight against the upper crust of American society. The Universal Health Care battle, whatever its dimensions and potential impact, is already well underway in the Senate where Senator Wellstone has drafted S 2320, The Universal Health Care Act of 1992. The entire support of Congress is needed to enact this critical Bill (NM Green party Platform, 2000, 7). In an election year, when Ralph Nader and the Greens are so much in the public eye, the well-entrenched political opposition to the Universal Health Plan may be forced to look once again at this important initiative. Harsh realities, as reflected in the Chan and Fehr Washington Post story (Sept 21, 2000) referred to earlier, are destined to impose their dominance and the Universal Health Plan of Ralph Nader, like those proposed by John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, is probably doomed to oblivion.
COMPLETE REFERENCES WERE PROVIDED IN THE ORIGINAL PAPER
Chan, S. and Fehr, S. Washington Post
Cobb, D., Houston Chronicle
Ireland, D., POZ
Ireland, D. Syndicated Column
Issues 2000 (NPR, AP, Nader, etc.)
National GP Platform
New Mexico Green Party Platform
Ostrom, M. Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, October 31, 2000
Paulson, S. AP Online
PBS Interview(Lehrer/Nader, June 30, 2000)