Howard Dean kicked off this year’s Concord Festival of Authors Oct. 21, holding court on the nation’s hottest topic: health care reform.
Howard Dean kicked off this year’s
Concord Festival of Authors
Oct. 21, holding court on the nation’s hottest topic: health care reform.
The Emerson Umbrella was packed with people from all over New England who came to see Dean — the former Vermont governor, physician, Democratic National Committee chairman and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate — discuss his book “Howard Dean’s Prescription for Real Healthcare Reform.”
Dean, who believes there can be no health care reform without a public option, faced no opposition Wednesday, with the exception of one protester outside the Umbrella who passed out dissident broadsides and proclaimed, “Howard Dean doesn’t believe in democracy, and neither does the Concord Festival of Authors.”
Introducing Dean to the crowd, state Rep. Cory Atkins, D-Concord, said she could not think of anyone “who would have a more authentic voice in one of the most contentious debates of our time right now.”
Stepping to the podium, Dean complimented the Umbrella and “whoever put this tremendous facility together” before discussing the book, which he co-wrote with two people from the Center for American Progress and described as “a plain English translation of one of the most complex national issues ever.”
Dean said both Democrats and Republicans want a health care system with a public option, because both sides believe choices about health care should be made by the people — not senators, congressmen, employers or insurance companies.
“That’s what this fight is about,” he said. “It is not the left versus the right or Democrats versus Republicans. It is about the people versus the Congress of the United States who are supposed to be serving us and not the health insurance industry. That is what this is about. And when you frame it like that, voila — people support and they get it.”
The public option
The best way to describe the public option is as “Medicare for people under 65,” Dean said, because it would be a government-run, single-payer system, rather than socialized medicine.
In fact, Dean believes one of the Democrats’ biggest mistakes this fall was not promoting the fact that the United States already has a government-run system serving 50 million (Medicare), socialized medicine serving 25 million (the Veterans Association) and a hybrid system used by members of the U.S. Congress, which combines private insurance with socialized medicine.
“The question that we have to ask the American people is: If people over 65 have it, if the people who served valiantly to defend our country have it, and if the people we pay to make laws in Congress have it, how come we can’t have the same choice they have? And that is a public option,” he said.
And that goes back to “the central framing issue,” Dean spoke about Wednesday. He said lawmakers are not working on health care reform, nor are they being asked to do so.
“What we’re asking them to do is let us reform the health care system,” Dean said, “and that is why without a public option, this is not health care reform of any kind. It is not and it ought not to pass.”
Dean also discussed why the free market doesn’t work for medicine and how getting rid of fee-for-service medicine is a great deal for primary care doctors and patients.
“There are really big substantial changes that could be made by the American people if only we’re given the choice about which kind of insurance we might have,” Dean said. “There is nothing new here. This is not reform. This is simply taking what we already have and allowing everybody to make the same choices that some groups of people already have. And that alone will begin the bandwagon towards reform, and then we will bring in some of these other changes that will have to happen as we go down this reform route.”
Waiting in line to get books signed after the program, audience members applauded Dean’s ability to put health care in a context normal people can understand.
“I think he’s the one person who really tells it exactly as it is in everyday language that everyday people understand,” said Marcia Moody, a state representative from New Hampshire’s 12th District. “And he gets it right. Public option is the only real option for what is best for the people and what they want, not what the Senate wants.”
Said Concord resident Fernando Maldonado, “I think it was very interesting, informative on a subject that is important to everybody. He made the subject very easy to understand.”