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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Interview with Jill Stein

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Think of all the places you couldn?t go on public transportation, if the sales tax is cut.

What did you do before entering public service?

 

I worked as a medical doctor observing the epidemics of asthma, cancers, learning disabilities and our broken healthcare system. I got to work as an advocate for ordinary people to get a better break, and found that the political system didn’t really care if you weren’t coming with deep pockets and full of bills and campaign contributions and lobbyists. It didn’t much matter what kind of solutions we put on the table, we live in a pay-to-play political culture on Beacon Hill.

I was invited to run for office based on that work back in 2002. I ran for governor out of desperation but emerged from that campaign with a lot of inspiration. I found that when you actually have a chance to go out and talk with everyday people, they really agreed that the political system, even back then, was incredibly broken.

 

What prompted you to put your hat in the ring this year?

 

This year, I found myself looking at three Beacon Hill candidates who have been a part of the problem, all of them. Deval Patrick has essentially adopted the Romney agenda. I think we’ve been going very much in the wrong direction. If you look at the direction we’re going it’s not a good one. Looking at jobs, education, the cost of higher education – we’ve paid out more in corporate entitlement programs than we do in higher education.

 

The current Massachusetts healthcare system, which Mitt Romney signed into law, is the seed for the healthcare package that passed in the US Congress. It’s provided greater access to healthcare in the state but it hasn’t contained costs. What is your approach to dealing with the cost containment issue?

 

We need fundamental health care reform. The profiteering Wall Street healthcare system has been tweaked for decades; there’s not a tweak out there they haven’t tried. What we’re seeing from Beacon Hill is basically window dressing, more of the same kind of ineffective token gestures toward cost containment we’ve done before.

They’re talking about price controls, cost-shifting and profit limitations which are easy to loophole right around. Yet cost containment will create limitations of care – what you buy for your healthcare dollar will be scaled down.

None of these get us to the endpoint of controlling costs while providing quality affordable healthcare for all. That is the point. It’s not simply to limit costs; it’s to limit costs and give us value for our healthcare dollars. Right now our healthcare dollars are squandered in a profiteering system that’s devoured by bureaucracy and red tape. When you simplify that, in a Medicare-for-all system, where the overhead is 3% rather than 15% – or nationally 30% – for tracking who’s the provider, what are their rules, what medications do they cover, what dosages… there’s all kinds of minutiae that gobbles up healthcare time and dollars.

Get rid of that by having a single, simplified system like Medicare. We expand the borders of Medicare, allow consumers to start choosing their healthcare providers again and for providers and consumers together to make healthcare decisions – not by a CEO behind closed doors.

 

A single payer healthcare system, Medicare for all, costs money. How would you work to fund it here in Massachusetts?

 

The good news is that you save so much money off the top by simplifying the red tape and bureaucracy that it actually exceeds the incremental cost by expanding care. At the national level, according to the Congressional Budget Office, it would save us about $400 billion every year – which would pay for the cost nationally to include everyone. In Massachusetts just about everybody’s already included, so we’re not so much expanding care as we are taking the bureaucracy and the administrative overhead off the bill – that’s how we’re saving money. When you get to the question of where the dollars come from, the bottom line there is you pay in all kinds of ways for healthcare, through taxes and again through premiums and yet again through copays. Those various ways would be consolidated into one revenue source which would be proportional to income, so it would be progressive… This is how Medicare works and how Medicare contains costs, so we would essentially model the Medicare system.

 

Students at public institutions have been worried about increasing fees that have to pay and reduced aid. What would you do to improve funding, and how would you pay for that?

 

When Deval Patrick tells you there’s not enough money, he’s saying there’s not enough money for you. There’s $200 million he wants to spend in grants to developers building shopping malls and office parks – not the best strategy for economic development when people don’t have money to spend and these facilities are empty because small businesses are going broke. We are [currently] spending $1.7 in these economic developments. They include $300 million yearly for Raytheon and Fidelity for jobs they were supposed to create 15 years ago but didn’t – but somehow oops! they still get paid every year. Let’s spend that money where it really counts, like in higher education.