Would you have voted for health care?
Oh yes. The most important thing is that establishes that health care is a right, but there are a number of urgent issues. For example, there are 30 million people who are, by law, going to be insured by 2014. We don’t have enough doctors and nurses. Realistically speaking, we don’t have enough specialists and we don’t have enough primary care.
Another key problem that I see coming down the pike is that the public option is essential. Not because government needs to get into compliance with healthcare plans but because, as we’ve seen with something of government involvement, you have to be an approved plan and that has been good for us because that sets a standard for benefits. It has made it difficult for plans to be duplicitous.
This can be useful in making sure that the plans have to offer what they need to offer. HMSA, until we attacked them on it, excluded donor transplant for multiple myeloma [a cancer of plasma cells in bone marrow]. That’s the gold standard for treatment but their plan excluded it. We find that kind of thing all the time, where something is not covered that should be because you are going to die if you have stage four multiple myeloma and don’t get it treated.
What’s your take on same-sex unions?
My take is that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. I believe that equal rights are essential. We are asking people to be equal citizens: you pay taxes, contribute to a wealth of knowledge, productivity. We must not discriminate. And the opposition to same-sex marriage discriminates in a way that isn’t materially deleterious to anyone except for the group it discriminates against. It’s about fairness and justice. My vote would be for same-sex civil unions in Hawaii. It would be a step in the right direction.
How do you think Congress has handled financial reform, both before and after the meltdown?
There were warning signs all over the place building up to this. Most important of which and most distinct of which was the fact that report after report of huge bonuses on Wall Street were being paid on worthless paper. I don’t think that Congress was ignorant of that. I don’t think you can be in that position and be ignorant of that. At least they had a duty to inquire what the heck was going on, and they didn’t. India is not suffering the kind of crisis that we did. And one of the reasons I attribute to the fact that they insisted on banks having adequate reserves on these instruments.
They were unregulated. I think that Congress has done a terrible job in managing the growing disproportion of wealth in this country. That is something I want to focus on. We also need to make it easier and more attractive for Americans to save because it could have been a softer landing.