We speak with T.R. Reid, Chair of the Colorado Foundation for Universal Healthcare
SHARMINI PERIES, TRNN: It’s the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. The big criticism of Senator Bernie Sander’s health care plan is that it’s too lofty and that it would be difficult to implement and he would never really be able to deliver on his promises. Let’s take a look at his plan. BERNIE SANDERS: And it’s about ending the disgrace, the national disgrace that the United States of America remains the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care to our people as a right of citizenship. PERIES: Well advocates in Colorado have some news for those that detract from that plan if voters in November vote to pass amendment 69 nearly a 40-billion-dollar proposal to implement Colorado care it would be the first state to guarantee healthcare as a human right for all of its residence. Now joining me to discuss this is T.R. Reid. He is the chair of the Colorado Foundation for Universal Healthcare normally in Colorado but today in Princeton for his class reunion. Thanks for joining us T.R. T.R. REID: Delighted Sharmini. Thank you. PERIES: So first of all you have legalized part, now universal healthcare. What’s going on in Colorado? REID: You know Colorado has become a national leader on a lot of policy areas. Prevention of teen pregnancy, fracking regulations as you said, legalized marijuana, with our Rocky Mountains we’re the highest state in the country in more ways than one. And the reason is we’re willing to take on problems facing our society and come up with solutions. Then you know what happens, the other states see that it works and copy it. There are now 27 states have legalized marijuana. It’s on 7 more state ballots this fall. So when we now finally get to universal healthcare at reasonable costs for everybody, the rest of the country will copy. PERIES: And how is it fairing? You’re campaigning for this leading up to the fall election on it. How are the people responding to this? REED: Much better than I expected frankly. You know I’ve been an advocate of universal coverage for a long time and this group of people in Colorado who wanted to put this plan on the ballot came to me and said we’re going to let people vote and I stupidly said, oh my god hopeless. It takes 99,000 signatures to get on the ballot. I said you’ll never do it. Guess what? We got 158,000 signatures because when we tell people what we’re doing they say hey, where do I sign? It’s just a much better idea than the expensive incomplete healthcare that we’re stuck with now in our state. PERIES: Now It’s no surprise you’re going to get some resistance to this and insurance companies, hospitals, and groups like Americans for Prosperity are painting a doomsday scenario when it comes to the passage of this amendment. Let’s have a look at one of their ads. SPEAKER: Colorado, this could be your future. Long lines, Coloraded lines, tax increases, no choice. It’s what will happen to your healthcare if amendment 69 passes. PERIES: And how are you responding to ads like this who are saying there will be long line ups, tax hikes, and poor reimbursement plans and so on? REID: That shows how desperate the healthcare insurance industry is. I mean they had a lot of gall complaining about no choice. It was the health insurers who came out with these narrow networks where they tell you what doctor you can see. Well guess what Sharmini? In our law, it says right there that the patient can choose the doctor, the chiropractor, the lab, the hospital, we pay them all. It’s the insurers who limit choice. But they say that stuff because they’re terrified we’re going to pass and if we pass they’re going to have to reduce their premiums and offer better care which they definitely don’t want to do. PERIES: And what’s the link between those who are running these ads and those who are supporting the Hillary Clinton campaign? There’s been some articles in the Intercept about how the super-PACS are backing Hillary in order for her to shy away from such a plan as what’s going forward in Colorado. REID: I’ve seen those. I think those articles are wrong. I think it’s kind of a stretch to say that. Hillary Clinton has always favored healthcare for everybody. She says it’s a moral imperative that we care for people when they’re sick. I’m certain that Hillary Clinton in the general election is going to endorse our plan because this is the cheapest most efficient way to get one state in America to universal coverage and then when we do it the rest of the country will follow. PERIES: And like it was when President Obama was running, there was a lot of negotiations at that time, particularly in 2008 about a healthcare period and the various options that the candidates laid out. But at the end of the day, President Obama shied away from any plan that he actually supported in the campaign and largely because of the insurance company or the pharmaceutical companies and their role in the campaigns. And we saw that becoming a reality after he got into office. Why do you think that Hillary’s not influenced in the same way? REID: Well I think Hillary learned from the experience of Obamacare. Obamacare absolutely expanded coverage but because they had to make all those compromises with the insurance companies and big pharma. It leaves 33 million people with no health insurance. 370 thousand people in our state of Colorado have no health insurance. So we’re not cutting any deals with the insurance companies. So they can still compete against us if they can offer a decent product at a reasonable price. But they’re trying to kill us. What I say, my best argument is, I say to people, the health insurance industry hates this, you’ll love it. PERIES: What about pharmaceuticals? Now in places like Canada, the prices of drugs are much lower than it is here because the state actually negotiates the price of the medicine. Here it’s sometimes 10-20 times higher. Will Colorado carry out a plan to negotiate like that? REID: Well we think we’re going to have 4.83 million people in our plan which should give us some negotiating clout over the big pharma. But you know what Sharmini, I am not sure we’re big enough. I think if we think we’re not going to pay your outrageous price, they’ll just go to some other state. Now if California would do this or New York would do this, big pharma would have to fold. I’m not sure we’ll have the negotiating clout to get big pharma to cut its outrageous prices. PERIES: Well maybe if it is adopted in Colorado other states will follow suit. I thank you so much for joining us today T.R. REID: Thanks for having me on your air Sharmini. PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.
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