Health Care for All

The Green Party and I support single-payer universal health care and preventive care for all.

Our current health care system lets tens of thousands of people die each year by excluding them from adequate care, while its exorbitant costs are crippling our economy. The United States is the only industrialized nation in the world without a national health care system.

Under a universal, comprehensive, national single-payer health care system, the administrative waste of private insurance corporations would be redirected to patient care. If the United States were to shift to a system of universal coverage and a single payer plan, as in Canada and many European countries, the savings in administrative costs would be more than enough to offset the cost of additional care. Expenses for businesses currently providing coverage would be reduced, while state and local governments would pay less because they would receive reimbursement for services provided to the previously uninsured, and because public programs would cease to be the “dumping ground” for high-risk patients and those rejected by health maintenance organizations (HMOs) when they become disabled and unemployed. In addition, people would gain the peace of mind in knowing that they have health care they need. No longer would people have to worry about the prospect of financial ruin if they become seriously ill, are laid off their jobs, or are injured in an accident.

Greens support a wide-range of health care services, not just traditional medicine which too often emphasizes “a medical arms race” that relies upon high-tech intervention, surgical techniques and costly pharmaceuticals. Chronic conditions are often best cured by alternative medicine. We support the teaching, funding and practice of holistic health approaches and as appropriate, the use of complementary and alternative therapies such as herbal medicines, homeopathy, naturopathy, traditional Chinese medicine and other healing approaches.

Greens recognize that our own health is also intimately tied to the health of our communities and environment. To improve our own health, we must improve the quality of our air, water and food and the health of our workplaces, homes and schools.

The Green Party and I unequivocally support a woman’s right to reproductive choice, no matter her marital status or age, and that contraception and safe, legal abortion procedures be available on demand and be included in all health insurance coverage in the U.S., as well as free of charge in any state where a woman’s income falls below the poverty level.

I will support the following national changes:

1. Single-Payer Health Care

Enact a universal, comprehensive, national single-payer health plan that will provide the following with no increase in cost:

  1. A publicly funded health care insurance program, administered at the state and local levels, with comprehensive lifetime benefits, including dental, vision, mental health care, substance abuse treatment, medication coverage, and hospice and long-term care;
  2. Participation of all licensed and/or certified health providers, subject to standards of practice in their field, with the freedom of patients to choose the type of health care provider from a wide range of health care choices, and with decision-making in the hands of patients and their health providers, not insurance companies;
  3. Portability of coverage regardless of geographical location or employment;
  4. Cost controls via streamlined administration, national fee schedules, bulk purchases of drugs and medical equipment, coordination of capital expenditures and publicly negotiated prices of medications;
  5. Primary and preventive care as priorities, including wellness education about diet, nutrition and exercise; holistic health; and medical marijuana.
  6. More comprehensive services for those who have special needs, including the mentally ill, the differently abled and those who are terminally ill;
  7. A mental health care system that safeguards human dignity, respects individual autonomy, and protects informed consent;
  8. Greatly reduced paperwork for both patients and providers;
  9. Fair and full reimbursement to providers for their services;
  10. Hospitals that can afford safe and adequate staffing levels of registered nurses;
  11. Establishment of national, state, and local health policy boards consisting of health consumers and providers to oversee and evaluate the performance of the system, ensure access to care, and help determine research priorities; and
  12. Establishment of a National Health Trust Fund that would channel all current Federal payments for health care programs directly into the Fund, in addition to employees’ health premium payments.

2. Men’s contraception

Women today have 12 different methods of modern contraception that are effective, reversible, and relatively safe. Men have none. The only methods are permanent sterilization or ineffective. Yet, 50% of the pregnancies in the US are still unplanned. Men should be enabled to take control of their own reproductive decisions, and become equal, responsible partners in this most important decision of our lives. Given the advances in medicine and technology in the past 70 years, men should have access to safe, inexpensive, effective, reversible male contraceptives. I believe this is a human right for men, and a major protection from unplanned pregnancy for women.

Men today have essentially the same limited set of reproductive choices as 70 years ago, when vasectomies first became available. All these choices have significant drawbacks. Male contraceptives have had three periods of attention since modern contraceptive research began in the 1960s, but the pharmaceutical companies, government agencies, and health organizations have not followed through to bring successful methods to market. I will introduce legislation to fully fund research for excellent male contraception, and enable all men in the United States to have access to the new products.

From a human rights standpoint, men have a fundamental right to control their reproductive decisions equivalent to women’s rights. With the sophistication of modern science, men should have a range of birth control methods that help them implement their own decision when to have a child. A caring man will be bound for life to a child that was not planned, with life-altering consequences for himself as well as for the mother and other family members. Young men in particular need to be empowered to make a conscious choice to be a parent, as an expression of their own vision of their life plan, with full awareness of the responsibilities and benefits of that choice.

From a women’s health perspective, effective male contraceptives allow women to have the freedom not to use a female contraceptive, most of which are hormonal with side effects. Also, when combined with female contraception, the use of two methods will lead to a large reduction in unplanned pregnancies. This reduction will save women’s lives and protect children from maternal loss in developing countries. In developed countries, reduced unplanned pregnancies will increase maternal and infant health and improve socioeconomic outcomes particularly for teens.

From a family planning perspective, male contraception allows a couple to improve their ability to control reproduction dramatically. Today, all women’s contraceptive methods have a failure rate, with tubal ligation (sterilization) still producing pregnancies for one out of every 200 to 300 women. A couple would be able to greatly decrease the risk of unplanned pregnancy by combining two highly effective, reversible methods. If each partner uses a method that is 99.5% effective, the net risk of conception drops to 0.0025%, near zero. Yet in the United States, nearly 50% of pregnancies are still unintended.

From a child welfare standpoint, the ability for a man to implement his decision when he is ready to be a father — for instance after completing his education, achieving a stable partner, and gaining financial stability — would improve child survival and all aspects of social development. Also, a man’s active role in the child-bearing decision encourages a stronger relational foundation for future support of the child.

Overall, men represent a major worldwide unmet need for family planning. Our society is morally bound to address this massive need. Male contraceptives are more than a simple “win-win” for men and women – the list of benefits is nearly endless. While vasectomies offer an excellent choice for more mature men who have completed having children, the long stretch from puberty to middle age now offers an excellent opportunity for the public and private sector to achieve major improvement in health, quality of life, and dignity for all people using current institutions and infrastructure.

The medical research establishment has not invested significant resources in male contraceptives. Three phases of attention, in the 1960s, 1970s, and mid-2000s, did not lead to any major new methods being brought to market. Public agency funding of research through NIH continues to decline. Contraception has become cast as a women’s issue. Involving men in child-bearing decisions as active and 100% responsible partners will provide a humanizing effect for this topic, empowering half the human race to decide when and why to make one of the most important decisions of their life.

At least six new male methods are under study at this time. They include an insert, an herb, several types of drugs, and heat. However, all of this research is being done by individual researchers and teams in small labs and universities. The current researchers are struggling with financial hurdles which are slowing and even stopping research on very promising methods. Immediate major funding is needed to ensure these researchers have support to complete their scientific studies; encourage the regulatory agencies to assign top priority to product reviews; and educate relevant public interest groups on the relationships between improved male contraception and their agendas.

Also, the medical industry needs to be persuaded that increased research is warranted by public interest until a suite of inexpensive, accessible, reversible options is available to men worldwide.