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While there are differences between the health care plans offered by Democratic presidential opponents Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, neither of them is proposing a single-payer system of national health care. That's despite the endorsement of precisely such a plan last December by the American College of Physicians, the largest medical specialty organization. We speak with Dr. Rocky White, a passionate, if unusual, advocate for a single-payer health insurance program. He describes himself as an evangelical from a conservative background and is on the Board of Directors of the nonprofit Health Care for All Colorado. He has revised and updated Dr. Robert LeBow's classic book advocating single-payer health care. It's called Health Care Meltdown: Confronting the Myths and Fixing Our Failing System.
Democratic presidential rivals, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, traded barbs over their health care proposals while campaigning in Pennsylvania this weekend. The rising cost of medical care has emerged as a key concern for voters, particularly as the economy continues to worsen. A new survey by the AFL-CIO found almost all of the respondents, most of whom were insured and employed, thought the current health care system is fundamentally broken and planned to vote for ways to change it in November.
This is an exchange between Clinton and Obama on health care from their debate in Los Angeles on January 31st that was hosted by CNN.
Sen. Hillary Clinton: We cannot get to universal health care, which I believe is both a core Democratic value and an imperative for our country, if we don't do one of three things. Either you can have a single-payer system, or -- which I know a lot of people favor, but for many reasons is difficult to achieve -- or you can mandate employers -- well, that's also very controversial -- or you can do what I am proposing, which is to have shared responsibility.
Now, in Barack's plan, he very clearly says he will mandate that parents get health insurance for their children. So it's not that he is against mandatory provisions; it's that he doesn't think it would be politically acceptable to require that for everyone. I just disagree with that. I think we, as Democrats, have to be willing to fight for universal health care.
Sen. Barack Obama: What they're struggling with is they can't afford the health care. And so, I emphasize reducing costs. My belief is -- is that if we make it affordable, if we provide subsidies to those who can't afford it, they will buy it. Senator Clinton has a different approach. She believes that we have to force people who don't have health insurance to buy it, otherwise there will be a lot of people who don't get it. I don't see those folks. And I think that it is important for us to recognize that if, in fact, you're going to mandate the purchase of insurance and it's not affordable, then there's going to have to be some enforcement mechanism that the government uses. And they may charge people who already don't have health care fines or have to take it out of their paychecks. And that, I don't think, is helping those without health insurance. That is a genuine difference.
Amy Goodman: There are important differences between the health care plans offered by the Democratic presidential opponents, but neither of them is proposing a single-payer system of national health care. That's despite the endorsement of precisely such a plan last December by the American College of Physicians, the largest medical specialty organization. The candidates' refusal to consider such a proposal also flies in the face of the latest study indicating a majority of physicians, 59 percent, now support government legislation to establish national health insurance.
We just drove through on our tour through New Mexico and Colorado -- Alamosa yesterday morning -- and were reminded of the problem with the water. Before we talk about health care, can you talk about what happened to Alamosa's water?
Dr. Rocky White: Well, several weeks ago, we started seeing sporadic outbreaks of salmonella in the community, and before too long, those sporadic outbreaks began to grow and grow. And it finally became clear that the salmonella was in the city water system. By the time it was all said and done, we've had about 300 -- I think I saw in the paper yesterday 385 cases now of salmonella. And just recently, we had one death. Thankfully, that's all that we've had. But that's basically what happened.
We really don't know the source. We don't know where the breach came from. We had a horrible winter. And so, it could have been just the freeze thaw from the exceedingly frozen ground, and then probably a breach somewhere with the high sublevels from the amount of snow that we've had. I suspect that's probably where it came from, but I'm not sure we'll ever know.
I had heard there was some pipe work that was being done and possibly a sewage pipe mixing with the water supply. Is that at all what could have happened?
There's a lot of theories out there. I'm not sure that we'll ever know for sure. But the city was intending on chlorinating the water at some time in the future, but that future is now. So we now have chlorinated water in Alamosa.
Amy Goodman is the host of the nationally syndicated radio news program, Democracy Now!