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May 8, 2007

Voter Guide 2007 (third of three Clip and Save!): And down the stretch they come …

This is the third and final installment of LEO’s interviews with Kentucky’s gubernatorial candidates. This week we cover healthcare and explore each candidate’s general philosophy of government.Specifically, we asked:•HEALTHCARE: The current (healthcare) model seems to be serving fewer people, with higher and higher costs. What can the state do to address this problem?•PUBLIC LIFE: What is your view of what government can and can’t do for people — what it should and should not do? Their answers appear on these pages. Although Jonathan Miller dropped out of the race this week, his remarks are included as well. For the record, Gov. Ernie Fletcher and Republican challenger Anne Northup declined our invitation to meet.On page 14 of this issue, we offer endorsements in both races. Unendorsed candidates are invited to respond in LEO’s May 16 issue, just in advance of the May 22 primary. Mark that date and get yourself to the polls.Steve BeshearDEMOCRATBorn: Sept. 21, 1944Hometown: Dawson Springs, Ky.Favorite superhero: SupermanRunning mate: Daniel MongiardoFurther: www.stevebeshear.comHEALTHCARE: TIME FOR A NEW MODEL? Our goal is, by the time we leave office, every Kentuckian will have available to him or her affordable healthcare. We’ve got 81,000 children in this state that don’t have any healthcare coverage. We should do something about that now. We’re going to fund a plan built on the Medicaid program and on the K-CHIP program that — both of which are already in place — to make sure that those 81,000 kids end up with healthcare coverage. The other end of the spectrum, another thing that we can do right away, is in the prescription drug areas for seniors. Right now under the Medicare D plans that they have, on prescription drugs, the first, roughly $3,000 of prescription drug costs are covered by the plan. But then you hit a gap, they call it the donut hole, I think, to where, from about $3,000 to $6,500 — that $3,500 area there comes wholly out of the senior’s pocket. We’ve got seniors in this state who are having to decide between eating and buying a prescription drug to stay healthy. So we’re going to have a plan to help them to be able to afford to buy their prescription drugs in that gap area. We can save millions of dollars, long-term, by taking a system that is now one of the only systems that is paper-driven, the whole medical system is paper-driven right now, from X-rays to what you’ve written on charts and it needs to be put on — it needs to be put online, on computer, and if we do that, we will eliminate so many duplicate tests. will cut out millions of dollars of costs, just by moving the whole system to an e-network, an e-health network system. PUBLIC LIFE: WHAT CAN AND SHOULD GOVERNMENT DO FOR PEOPLE?Government can’t do everything for everybody. Government does have a very essential role in improving the lives of people in our state and in our country. In areas like education, and economic development and healthcare, the kinds of areas that we need support from government for and that we need help in solving issues or problems with, I think the government plays a vital role. At the same time, I think government should try to stay out of our lives, otherwise, as much as possible. You know, people need to be free to live their lives the way the want to. The old saying that I grew up with was, “Your right to swing your fist ends at my nose.” You can swing all day long as long as you’re not hitting somebody and hurting somebody. So, government has many roles it plays. And should play. But, at the same time, I’m a strong believer in individual liberties and individual freedoms and I think we have to always be careful about where we draw those lines. Gatewood GalbraithDEMOCRATBorn: Jan. 23, 1947Hometown: Carlisle, Ky.Favorite superhero: Lech WalesaRunning mate: Mark WiremanFurther: www.gatewood.comHEALTHCARE: TIME FOR A NEW MODEL? I’d like to invite every health insurance company in the world to come into Kentucky and compete with each other to try and sell us at the lowest cost possible, the most effective health insurance policies possible to as many of us as possible. Next to that I’m not quite sure whether the state could actually subsidize premiums or subsidize co-pays to help out, take some of the burden off of the most poor of us who might not be able to afford health insurance totally on their own. But on the other end of it, I’d totally fund county health departments. Now that’s the way it used to be, before we tried to get into universal healthcare and the government got in and messed it up. If you couldn’t afford a health insurance policy and you had to have something done, the hospital would take care of you, but mostly you went to the health department for your vaccination, you know, for your sore throat — so I’d like to fully fund county health departments. They are the first line of defense in case some sort of epidemic hits us again. Let’s talk about the waste of tax dollars that makes it inaccessible to total healthcare. One of the things I want to do is make the pharmaceutical companies come in here and put about $500 million in drug treatment programs in this state. You know, we made the tobacco companies come in here and put up a lot of money for the impact of their poisons on this society, and I think it’s time that the pharmaceutical companies come in here and give us the money for drug treatment centers in this state. PUBLIC LIFE: WHAT CAN AND SHOULD GOVERNMENT DO FOR PEOPLE?The United States of America was formed in order to inhibit government. The only form of government that existed right before the American Revolution was fascist in nature — kings, queens, despots, warlords, whoever had the most gunpowder in a given area, czars. There’s no intercession there, there’s no law that says I can’t do that, it’s totally arbitrary power, that’s what fascism is. Our founding fathers understood that, they created the constitutional form of government, which is the antidote to fascism. They created a document, the Constitution, which severely limited the powers of government and expressly told them what they could do and everything else was left to the people and to the states. Of course, they’ve been trying to expand it all the time since it was formulated, and then the real big bang came when the New Deal legislation came in, where finally business and government formed a relationship without letting the people in on the negotiations, and that’s where big institutions came about, that’s where the FDA and all the alphabet-soup organizations came about. The government can only grow at the expense of the people, so every time something like that happens, people lose a little more of what it is they’re supposed to be getting. When a country abdicates human rights as a factor in awarding trade status — that’s what “free trade” is — only the corporate bottom line counts. Then the next step is to abdicate human rights on a domestic basis, which is what the Patriot Act and all these other kinds of insidious insurrections against the powers of the people are. I see the Government having gone from a human-based to a corporate-based mentality. Am I going to fight against that? You betcha I’m going to fight against that.Billy HarperREPUBLICANBorn: Aug. 15, 1944Hometown: Paducah, Ky. Favorite superhero: Ronald ReaganRunning mate: Dick WilsonFurther: www.harperforgovernor.comHEALTHCARE: TIME FOR A NEW MODEL? I’m all about universal wellness, not universal healthcare. Ultimately we’ve got to be responsible for ourselves as individuals. We need to develop programs that get people to stop smoking. We need to get them to watch what they eat, to get them to exercise more, to take the steps as opposed to using the elevator, or whatever. The other thing about healthcare that’s very interesting, is that an individual’s healthcare cost is directly proportional to their educational attainment level, so if we truly work on education, and we truly raise the educational attainment level of each individual, then their healthcare costs are going down. How do we bridge the gap from where we are to where we ideally should be long-term, in terms of, we’ve got to look at medical malpractice costs, we’ve got to look at tort reform. I’m also an advocate that we ought to eliminate the Certificate of Need, totally open our healthcare costs to the competitive environment. The safety net needs to be in the small communities across the state to make sure there’s healthcare accessible to those people and not just allow people to close all the medical facilities in areas where they can’t economically survive on their own. If we open it up for competition, then we can look at where we need the safety net. I’m a huge proponent of smaller government, so I certainly wouldn’t advocate a government facility. I do see a sort of private clinic that we would support to make it efficient there. If that facility can’t support itself, then we have a way to help that clinic survive economically, but at the same time, we don’t support it, it’s not totally run by state government. PUBLIC LIFE: WHAT CAN AND SHOULD GOVERNMENT DO FOR PEOPLE?One of the reasons I decided to run is that I have not been pleased that anything has changed in the last three years from the last 20 years. Some people look to government to solve their problems out of Frankfort. I think that’s totally wrong. We need to be working with private individuals to become responsible for themselves. Obviously there’s certain roles that state government has to fill and needs to do that. I’m all about less government, how do we downsize state government, let the local communities do as much as they can do for themselves, and Frankfort be there to help, not be the driving force of economic development, education, all of those issues. We need to move back to local control. That’s all about downsizing state government, and we have a great opportunity from the standpoint that 7,000 to 10,000 state employees are supposed to retire in ’07. What a great opportunity to downsize state government significantly and look at how we do things, how can we move back to local control, what can we privatize, what can we just not do, maybe nice services but what really aren’t essential services out of Frankfort. Then you lower the cost of government and you allow more money to stay with the citizens of the state, for them to spend for what they choose, and that brings the whole base of our economy up, because if we develop, if we truly do a good job in education, we raise the standard of living, we create the better-paying jobs, then the tax base will come up on its own. So let’s get rid of the alternative minimum tax, let’s get rid of the unfair taxes, let’s get back to a good system. Steve HenryDEMOCRATBorn: Oct. 8, 1953Hometown: Woodsville, Ky.Favorite superhero: BatmanRunning mate: Renee TrueFurther: www.henrytrueforky.comHEALTHCARE: TIME FOR A NEW MODEL? The fact of the matter is we’ve got to change our culture. We do pretty good in Kentucky until we hit first grade. Slightly above national average in obesity. And once we hit about sixth grade we’re top three. Shot through the roof. And what it is, kids aren’t exercising anymore. There is no real exercise or fitness program in the schools and they’re eating all this junk food. Now I’m not saying it’s the schools’ fault necessarily, but they’re part of it. And what was happening — we saw the number of vending machines skyrocket over the last decade. We’re going to establish the Governor’s Physical Fitness — you know the President’s Council — remember what Kennedy did, except in Kentucky. You just drive it. Every month, it would be my job, with the Surgeon General leading it — the Surgeon General will be charged with broad-based authority over all cabinets. Every month, he’d go out and start doing a preventive issue.Now it looks like it’ll be about $60 million . I believe you’re going to have to combine the K-CHIP and Medicaid. A lot of states have already done that and we didn’t do that because, I think the advocates were concerned that the benefits would be lost. We’d lose benefits that way. You don’t have to. But with the K-CHIP dollars you can get up to 80 to 90 percent match. That’s pretty damn good. So where we’re losing money is, a lot of people have merged the Medicaid because it’s only 63 to 37. And so you can say — some estimates you can save real quick: $79 million right off the bat just by merging. PUBLIC LIFE: WHAT CAN AND SHOULD GOVERNMENT DO FOR PEOPLE?I expect the government to provide some leadership, some vision about what’s going to confront us in the future. I think they need to take hold of the healthcare system and at least allow us to have an infrastructure where we can either pick or pay for the best that we can. You know we’re going to have the problem sooner or later. I don’t want to see people having to ration. You know, today, when you’re 65, I believe it is, your doctor has a gag order, in England, if you took their Medicaid system, he can’t talk to you about dialysis for a case plan. You’re just a statistic.And then I get worried too much about the government taking over when you’ve got a U.S. Senator, a doctor, who looks through the television and says, “Families, she’s got a meaningful life. She’s thinking. I can communicate with her.” I think we ought to give everybody the right understanding on how to live, the right education, we’re to provide them the kind of environment that’s safe. Otis HensleyDEMOCRATBorn: March 5, 1956Hometown: Harlan, Ky.Favorite superhero: RoadrunnerRunning mate: Richard RobbinsFurther: to the reader: Hensley’s economic adviser, Roger Thoney, also participated in the interview and provided some of the following answers.)HEALTHCARE: TIME FOR A NEW MODEL? One of things that me and Roger talked about is, we know that several years ago there was over 50 insurance companies that were running out of Kentucky because of one person that I’m not even gonna mention their name, we all know who I’m talking about. Anyway, we want those companies to come back. The more companies that get here the more we’ll bring the price down. We’re going to be taking a thorough review of the whole health industry in the state and try to identify ways to operate differently in order to reduce the cost. And we’ll have a commission set up to do this, and their mission will be “how can we organize healthcare to reduce the cost?” And also they’re gonna come back with several proposals. One is going to be a free-market-based care system. Another is going to be a regulated healthcare system; how we regulate electricity and gas and things. And then we’ll have one or two of them of their own choosing; what they want to come back with. But the objective is to reduce cost and then figure out how to pay for it.We want health competition.We’ll look at Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies because among those three they’re controlling the prices in the industry, and for economics, people who study economics, have come to the conclusion that wage and price controls do not work but we have controlled prices in healthcare. That’s another reason why the system is messed up.PUBLIC LIFE: WHAT CAN AND SHOULD GOVERNMENT DO FOR PEOPLE?I think Frankfort plays a pretty good role in people’s lives. about that, kind of getting Frankfort out of their lives a little bit. I can’t promise I can lower the taxes, but I know I can do a whole lot. I know they won’t be raised, I know that. I want to leave me alone. Let me raise my family, raise my kids the best I know how. The principles that our country was founded on — individual freedom, the Bill of Rights. I don’t like the way they do teachers. I don’t like the way they can pass laws and say, hey, you’re going to do this whether you like it or not. I want them to have a voice. If they’re going to do something to them, at least let them come out and say, “Hey, this is good for us,” or, “This is bad for us.” I think they should have a voice, and that’s something they’ve never had. I’m the only Democrat who says no to expanded gambling. I know that isn’t important to you all up here, because you can go across the bridge and gamble. I’m saying no to casino gambling. It’s very harmful, it’s very addictive. If I’m going to put the farmers to work, and they can run down the road and gamble their tractors away, I’m not gaining anything. And I just don’t want it. We live in Kentucky, not Vegas.Anybody that’s going to vote, I say, lay all seven of us candidates out, look at their Web sites, look into their heart, and see if they’re a leader. And then vote that way. You shouldn’t vote for a man because of his pocket book. If you’re going to vote for the money, I ain’t got a prayer.Bruce LunsfordDEMOCRATBorn: Nov. 11, 1947Hometown: Piner, Ky., outside of Kenton CountyFavorite superhero: Superman (George Reeves version)Running mate: Greg StumboFurther: to the reader: Greg Stumbo also provided some of the following answers.)HEALTHCARE: TIME FOR A NEW MODEL? The singular biggest drain on the healthcare costs in the state of Kentucky is the uninsured. These people get sick, they don’t do anything about it. They have no insurance. They don’t go to the doctor. Then it becomes pneumonia. Then they go to the emergency room. We have to accept them, which we should. It’s at great cost to the taxpayer. If you could just give them affordable insurance and fund it some way — this isn’t for people who can’t afford health insurance. A lot of them not to do it. We have those who can’t get insurance. So we have this whole slew of people, which make up now probably 15 to 20 percent of our population. Not to mention the underinsured. That cost is $800 million to a billion at least, we figure, by statistics we’re using that have been provided by outside sources, to cost us to do that. We think we could take care of everybody and insure them for between $500- and $600 million. You’ve got to give Medicaid waivers. This is not going to happen in six months. But it can be done. You can keep the private sector in place. Let the HMOs do what they’re doing. But the public sector — let them develop a massive pool that has great bargaining power. Just by having a pool that requires generic drugs, and doing things like that, look at the bargaining power you have.It’s so big on the national level it could take a decade to do it — on a state level, where it’s a little more manageable, especially with a governor who is not dependent on … I think it’s a great opportunity to get the public behind it.PUBLIC LIFE: WHAT CAN AND SHOULD GOVERNMENT DO FOR PEOPLE?You know, in my view of a leader, and you know time will tell if I’m one of those, my view of a leader is someone who can inspire people to do the most for themselves they can, but also the need government has to fill for those who can’t. And that’s a pretty simple way to do it. And I think that when people are inspired by leadership, they accomplish more. And I think the more they accomplish the less government has to do. And it gives government more tools to do what it needs to do. Jonathan MillerDEMOCRATBorn: July 24, 1967Hometown: Lexington, Ky.Favorite superhero: SupermanRunning mate: Irv MazeFurther: www.millermaze.comHEALTHCARE: TIME FOR A NEW MODEL? We have a half-million families that are uninsured, we have 100,000 children in the state that are uninsured. A lot of politicians talk about moral values and moral outrages — to me, that’s a moral outrage, particularly that there are 100,000 kids that are uninsured. I have called for moving Kentucky into universal healthcare insurance by the end of my term. We go through that very specifically — it’s on our Web site, you can see the different things that we do. No. 1, when I expand the K-CHIP program, that will help more — the poorest of the poor kids right now are insured. I’d like to enroll more of the poor to lower middle class kids that are currently not insured. I want to investigate ideas, like Illinois is doing, to buy prescription drugs from Canada, Ireland, Great Britain. The two priorities I’ve placed on where the gaming money would go would be to get us to universal health insurance and get college more affordable. One thing I didn’t mention earlier is creating pools of small businesses to be able to insure their employees. Right now it’s sometimes exorbitantly expensive for a small business, but, again, if we bring together pools it’s going to increase their bargaining power. The business community now understands the desperate need for health insurance. ’94 and ’95, the business community really helped kill it, because at that point they thought the cost would be prohibitive. But they’ve come to understand that, competitively, we’re losing out because of the lack of health insurance, particularly the Kentucky business community feels that if Kentucky doesn’t move and some of the other states do, then we’re going to lose out even more.PUBLIC LIFE: WHAT CAN AND SHOULD GOVERNMENT DO FOR PEOPLE?I am a big believer in the Golden Rule and the biblical admonition to love your neighbor as yourself. I believe it is government’s role to … not to help those who already have means, not to provide breaks for special interests, but to help those of our neighbors who are the ones that all of our traditions — whether we are religious or not, this is not about, you don’t have to be Christian or Jewish to accept these  traditions — but every world culture accepts this notion. We are acting in our most morally valuable way when we love our neighbor as ourselves, particularly those of our neighbors who are most vulnerable — the poor, the elderly, the very young and the handicapped. It is government’s role to help provide those people with a hand-up, with a way to help them have the same opportunity that the rest of society might enjoy. I am very troubled by the direction of the country in the past decade, which seems to be a repeat of what happened in the so-called “Gilded Age,” where the very rich and the very powerful had their hands on government and used it in ways to enrich themselves, in ways that made the rest of the nation poorer. We’ve got to turn it around. I’m encouraged on the federal level that that is changing, but we’ve got to change it right here in Kentucky, and we’ve got to address these dire needs that have been facing this state for decades. We need to focus on these problems, we need to come up with creative ideas. The states that have done that have advanced, and we’ve been standing in one place. I want to take us forward. Jody RichardsDEMOCRATBorn: Feb. 20, 1938Hometown: Bowling Green, Ky. (born in Louisville)Favorite superhero: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Atticus Finch (“To Kill a Mockingbird”)Running mate: John Y. Brown IIIFurther: www.jodyandjohny.comHEALTHCARE: TIME FOR A NEW MODEL? One of the real big problems in the state is having enough good health insurance companies to be here. I think that state needs to work with more managed care companies, like Passport. I would like to start that in some other places. Secondly, we have to create the very best climate for health insurance and to try to bring companies in and try to make sure that they can make a living here. If you restrict them very much, they just pull out of the state because we’re a state of 4.2 million and in a nation of over 300 million, they’ll just pull out of Kentucky and go to California. The third thing is that I think they’ve underutilized our health departments. They can be primary caregivers for much of our population. I would put more financing into those. I tell you they could take up a huge slack, in the normal things — in inoculations, in treating for colds and the flu and the simple things. I have co-sponsored legislation to allow us to enter into compacts with other states to the north of us and import certain types of common drugs that seniors use, prescription drugs, from Canada or Britain or France or . I personally favor some form of national health insurance. The proposals for a state health insurance plan, the one’s I’ve seen so far, would have a hard time working in Kentucky. However, the House Democratic majority very much favors trying to get the federal government to have national health insurance. And it will be far better than our state just taking it on because, again, we’re a state of 4.2 million in a country of 300 . I think that if you jumped out right now that the chances of success would be very low.PUBLIC LIFE: WHAT CAN AND SHOULD GOVERNMENT DO FOR PEOPLE?I think that collectively we can do things that we cannot do individually. I’m not afraid of government. I want to be as cost-effective as possible. I think our citizens deserve that, but certainly we, individually, we can’t build roads, we can’t fund our great universities, we cannot provide a park system; we can’t individually provide for those who need our help. And I’m very much in favor of government, of people working together, to make lives better for people. And I believe that the only way to make Kentucky the kind of state that everyone in this room wants, we have to have the very best education system we can buy and afford. And by the way, I should have mentioned in my health insurance part that I am very much in favor of a wellness program. I keep my cholesterol great, my triglycerides great, my weight right and I can lead the way in that and will lead the way. And I always take the stairs in the Capitol. The governor sets the agenda. And Jody Richards and John Y. Brown will set a very active agenda. Look, I can retire. I could go home and enjoy a life. But that’s not what I want to do. I really believe that I would be the best governor that we’ve had in a long time. That would be my goal. And we’d be very aggressive in making government help people with their lives. We would emphasize education. We would emphasize good, high-paying jobs, most of them union jobs. We would do everything we could to make people’s lives better. I think I know how to do that and I can work through our governmental system to make that work. I don’t see government as the enemy.